No band this year has suited anonymity better than Rhye. Like most of the internet age’s best-loved buzz bands, the duo of Michael Milosh and Robin Hannibal drip-fed their music to the world, each instance devoid of any context or biographical information. But there’s more to Rhye’s story than mere generation of hype, for at least half of their audience will listen to Woman completely unaware that its vocal parts are sung by a man.
A quiet storm of a record this may be, but it’s this androgynous quality to Rhye’s music that makes them much more than a Sade throwback. And that’s really the point of Woman as a whole: in casting off gendered stereotypes in music it’s simultaneously asking us to forget about what’s current and listen free from preconceptions.
Opening with one of the year’s strongest one-two punches, ‘Open’ and ‘The Fall’ are equally as breathtaking as each other. Paring down production to the crest and fall of Milosh’s voice to a minimal orchestral backdrop, it’s ‘sexy’ music in the truest sense: understated, vulnerable, but no less graceful for it (it’s worth noting that the record was intended to celebrate Milosh’s marriage).
For the most part Woman continues on this trajectory, but when the duo make surprise turns, they’re no less dynamic. More disco-orientated cuts such as ‘3 Days’ and ‘Hunger’ give movement to the collection when required, only adding to the record’s carefully controlled intimacy.
Milosh may have a truly captivating voice, but his solo outings highlight the fact that he’s never really found the right foil for his lilting melodies. As such, Woman is as much a warm and familiar space for the listener as it is for those creating it.