Music Reviews

Black Tape for a Blue Girl

As one aflame laid bare by desire


At first he caught only glimpses of her passing – a flash of pale skin against a black dress as she turned a corner a heartbeat ahead of him; a breath of her perfume when he came to where she had been but a moment before. But slowly she took shape more fully within his mind, his desire stripping her bare, revealing everything except how he could achieve his one wish. Animated by his imaginings, she became his constant companion, his first thought on waking and his last as he closed his eyes. Though he expected the dream to end when at last they touched, he found to his delight, and sorrow, that the moment of their union held not the satisfaction of conclusion, but the bittersweet ache of endless possibilities.

I’ve never been a huge Black Tape fan before, but this album has converted me. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp and Lisa Feuer (who also played flute on the album and modeled for the CD booklet), As one aflame explores desire as a catalyst for transition, according to Sam Rosenthal, Black Tape’s creative visionary. Violin (Vicki Richards) and flute lend an elegant, classical feel, augmented and sometimes purposefully undermined by Sam’s exquisite keyboard work and lovely vocals by Oscar Herrera and Julianna Towns. Far from the surrealist spectacle one might expect from a work dedicated to Duchamp, As one aflame has a haunted, fragile feeling, like an antique musical box playing a melancholy melody that lingers just on the edge of your memory.

In “entr’acte [the garden awaits us],” Lisa’s flute sounds curious but cautious, evoking lovers longing for their first embrace, but fearful too. Sam’s keyboards enter on a dark note, warning that after the first touch, nothing is ever the same again… “The apotheosis” weaves the sounds of wind and sea, crowd murmurings and gentle strings together with chants and radiant synths to paint a picture of a virgin’s virtual transformation into a bride. And the closing “The passage” wraps the listener in a warm cocoon of slow, throbbing keyboards, washing over you again and again like a lover’s imagined caresses, endless motion perpetually frozen, frost-flowers of desire slowly melting in the heat of passion, the electric touch that leads to the ecstasy of release, but also the sweet ache of longing that can never be fulfilled… Projekt/Darkwave, P.O. Box 166155, Chicago, IL 60616

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