Founded in the mid-1980's by Sam Rosenthal the way many bands start, by putting to music the thoughts and feelings of the artist. He would then surround himself with other musicians and vocalists to create excellent masterpieces, at first based mostly around ambient electronics and then gradually evolving into music spanning goth, ethereal and other styles. Throughout all the years that I have been collecting music, this awesome talent-filled group with this music is still definitely one of my all-time favorite projects. The music can only be described as emotionally spellbinding and beautifully captivating. I believe that Sam and his collaborators are those that have helped define what Ethereal or "Heavenly Voices" music is today. Every minute of their violin, flute and various electronic soundscapes coupled with heavenly voices hold the listener entranced. Sam's lyrics all tell a story that makes you listen and feel the music and raw emotion. Some changes have come and gone over the years, but overall we still look back over the project's history with great satisfaction.
While the lineup has changed a lot over the years, the solid backbone of Sam's talents combined with the other current artists on the Projekt
label make up this astounding combination of artists. Past members have been a large contributing factor to the success of each of these albums. Oscar Herrera has been one of my favorite vocalists whom you'll hear on many BTFBG albums and has rejoined for the latest works while Elysabeth Grant and most recently Oscar's daughter Danielle, and many others have also contributed their vocals while Mera Roberts on cello, Lisa's flute and many, many other contributors, too many to name here remain great inspirations and have left lasting impressions.
You will always be able to find many of the tracks, old and new, from these wonderful artists on my radio shows. Be sure to check them out, and if you're a newcomer to this fabulous sound (is it even possible?), then be sure to pick up much of the back-catalog of releases, you won't be disappointed!
These Fleeting Moments (& Limitless single) - Review
I've seen a lot of things come full circle over the years from clothing and hair styles to the revival of post-punk and new wave from the 80's.
And now with this project we've come full circle in many ways. For me the trio of albums Remnants of a Deeper Purity
, A Chaos of Desire
and Ashes in the Brittle Air
were the climax of this project. In fact, this album name actually appears as the opening song for A Chaos of Desire
and an updated version of "Through Sky Blue Rooms" originally appearing on Ashes in the Brittle Air
is on the Limitless
single I'll touch on later in this review. I've been a little disappointed with some of the latest work from this project and so when I heard the first teasers and saw that Oscar Herrera was back, I could hardly contain my excitement. With the release I've been playing the album over and over and presenting several tracks on our radio show including our Top 10 for a few weeks. This is definitely some of the best material since Remnants...
The album spans thirteen emotionally charged selections spanning styles from goth to ambient and ethereal. Overall it contains all of the captivating elements that we've grown to love from them from those albums in the 90's and thereabouts. It even kicks off with a nearly eighteen minute opening track "The Vastness of Life" with various movements very similar in structure to the 20 minute classic piece "For You Will Burn Your Wings Upon the Sun". This track is broken down into three main movements, the first few minutes with Oscar singing a dark and brooding piece. The mood and style shifts just a bit over ambient soundscapes then it's back to the oppressive and heavy strings backing Danielle's vocals for the next few minutes. Once again we drift off into soft ambience before picking up one last time with Oscar's haunting tenor while Danielle's angelic vocals back him. While I couldn't put it on in it's fulness on the radio show, it is a great selection that the listener can sit back and enjoy all 17 minutes and 42 seconds. As a special treat, if you pick up the single Limitless
you actually get the spanish version of the first three minutes of this piece titled "Quien Yo Soy".
Throughout the album we see more of these classic elements being brought back for this album, yet at the same time we also pick up on some refreshingly new elements as well. Case in point is the moving single from this album "Limitless". We're presented with a simple moving beat backing various elements such as various guitars and synths for a mild yet solid gothic touch. For those that pick up the single we also get the same music with different vocals for the track "Alaska". Other selections bring classic elements and make them new across pieces like "One Promised Love" featuring the haunting tenor vocals backed by strumming guitar and hauntingly beautiful violin and subtle electronics. The dreamily beauty of "Affinity" is brought out through Danielle's angelic vocals floating over the mesmerizing electronics as another new timeless classic. In similar fashion we're presented with "She's Gone" later on in the album which is another beautiful ethereal piece featuring softly plucked guitar backing the soft and beautiful vocals telling the story of love lost. This stellar piece starts off soft and sweet but slowly builds with added percussion, violin and electric guitar all creating a powerful climax before dropping off to the excellent and somewhat related, mostly instrumental piece "She Ran So Far Away...". "You're Inside Me" hearkens back to the earlier days when various electronic layers were the main backdrop to the tracks and once again we're treated with Oscar's powerful tenor voice to bring the album to a close with style.
For those that have enjoyed some of the ambient and meditation styles from the past we're also presented with a few of these as well. Overall it's a great mix of old and new, definitely something that I've been missing and was happy to have from this long-time love.
The Rope 25 - Review
Wow! It's incredible to have the 25-year anniversary edition of the debut album from this legendary ethereal band.
And if you happen to have the original debut album, then my hat goes off to you as a true fan and still hope you'll go out and pick up this re-mastered version and it also comes with an excellent bonus disc containing an updated piece as well as others covered by many of our favorite ethereal and ambient projects in the scene. That's a dozen re-masters of the original album plus a dozen more updated and covered tracks, very cool indeed.
I feel slightly uncomfortable reviewing the first disc, the original debut album, it's something of a classic and a treasure, showing the very raw edges and new collaborative work for Sam Rosenthal and his vocalists and musicians at the time. It's clear the ambient electronics are the foundation for these early works and how can we miss mentioning Oscar Herrera's captivating tenor voice. Yes, I know we all have a sweet spot for smooth female vocals in the ethereal genre and Kim Prior lends hers on several on this disc, but not many can compare with the raw emotion and pure beauty of that tenor that we grew to love over the span of several releases from this project.
As with most albums, there are several favorites spanning the upbeat to sweet ethereal and including the dreamy ambient soundscapes. Starting off the album is one of the most upbeat tracks from this band "Memory, Uncaring Friend". The slightly chaotic mix of percussion, bass and guitar all sloshing along for Oscar's taunting vocals create a rare masterpiece in it's own light that may have to grow on some while others will savor it from the start. The dark, brooding piece "Within These Walls" also features some subtle early The Cure
-like percussion overlain by an eerie mix of electronics, guitar and a duet of Oscar and Kim's vocals for a moving, yet dreamy jewel that leaves me swooning the more I listen to it, a rare, forgotten gem worthy of resurrecting for all to enjoy. Next comes the dreamy ethereal styles on "End" and "The Rope" which bring out that style that I remember as the most recognizable feature and style of this project. However, right up there with the ethereal beauty are the ambient or otherwise instrumental tracks that are nearly as memorable with each becoming a memorable piece in their own light whether it be the melodic pieces "Seven Days Till Sunrise" and "The Few Remaining Threads" or the ambient, dreamy pieces "The Lingering Flicker" and "Slow Blur". "We Return" wraps it all up nicely with a haunting mix of vocalists over somber violin and electronics for a somber finale to the album.
Disc 2 is a real treat and for long-time fans who may have been enjoying the classic tracks from this album for many years, this becomes the "new" content from this band that's always exciting. Kicking it off is the latest lineup of artists for this project performing their updated version of "Memory, Uncaring Friend". Here we get a taste of a slightly edgier version of this song with updated instruments and Athan's vocals. As the album moves on we're treated with some real gems, starting off with All My Faith Lost
covering "The Rope". This is a rendition that remains so true to the original mood in so many ways, but is unmistakenly All My Faith Lost
with Viola's heavenly voice backing Federico's deep, soft vocals for a definite favorite. Mirabilis
appears in true-to-form style with mostly accapella version of "The Floor Was Hard But Home". Several ambient artists provide their dreamy rendition of the related pieces for a very nice take on the originals, memorable and mesmerizing. I think a true favorite and highlight for th album has to be the version of "End" from Rajna
. The sheer beauty of this piece almost literally breaks my heart every time I listen to it, dreamy, heavenly music shimmers over simple, beautiful vocals expressing the heart-felt lyrics. It's hard for anyone to compete with this, but yet this disc remains surprisingly cohesive, even with the inclusion of the up-beat electronic and unique styles of Attrition
's cover of "Memory, Uncaring Friend" which comes together very well and very much only as Martin Bowes and co. could do. Lux Interna
provide the final, closing piece with "We Return", definitely a different take from the original and very down-beat with a somber neo-folk style.
Whew... well, there's a mouthful, a lot to cover there in a short couple of paragraphs. Hopefully the reader can get a taste for what we have on this double-disc jewel. For me it's a great addition to any ethereal and ambient music collection.
Remnants of a Deeper Purity (10-year Anniversary Edition)
It is truly a pleasure to be able to have this special 10-year anniversary release and to be able to review it here. Right up front I'll say that there is no way I can adequately express how great this album really is.
I was introduced to it originally shortly after it's release by hearing the title track and immediately picked it up and have never had a moment of doubt or disappointment since then. It easily fits in to my all-time top 10 list of favorite albums. So now, it's a special treat to have this special edition version which not only includes the original CD but a bonus disc with 9 bonus tracks.
Starting with the first and original disc from this album we're treated with "Redefine Pure Faith", with it's slow, pulsing sound that just oozes with emotion and sincerity that you can literally feeel through the music. Oscar Herrera lends his stunning tenor vocals to this track with pure perfection, delivering Sam's lyrics as only he can do with the occasional, beautiful siren vocals of Lucian Casselman harmonizing in the background. Every bit of this song is a masterpiece from the slow introduction, the electronics, cello and even to the final outro piano piece. This brings us to "Fin de Siecle" on which Lucian takes the lead on vocals and Oscar provides backup while the musical arrangement brings the ambient and orchestral elements out as the dominating sound through spatialized echos, all creating an absolutely mesmerizing and dreamy atmosphere.
At this point we're brought back to the original mood and style on "With My Sorrows" which quickly became a favorite track. This piece once again brings out so many facets of what great ethereal music is all about and also breaks down some of the stereotypes as well, such as a great male tenor vocalist can bring out just as much of the ethereal mood as a haunting muse might be able to. The addition of spanish lyrics at the end of the track is a really nice touch as well, which fits in perfectly with the underlying mood. But overall, the lyrical and vocal content layered over the electronics, cello and violin is just stunning on this piece. This is a great time to introduce the wonderful violinist Vicki Richards and cellist Mera Roberts, both of which have excellent talents that come out so well on this and many other pieces on this album.
"For you will burn your wings upon the sun" is an enigmatic track in itself, containing percussion which is a rare addition for this album and when I first heard this piece I was in awe of how captivating a track that is literally over 26 minutes long can be. It's broken down into five basic parts, the first being what you could easily extract for a "radio edit" or what we've heard at their live performances containing the lyrics and vocals, which in themselves are awe-inspiring with the raw emotion and sense of betrayal they contain. After this first part draws to a close the second part takes over which is all instrumental and begins with it's deep, droning cello and electronics with the violin bringing out much of the melody. This slowly fades after a few minutes and we're brought to the third part which introduces a slightly different style that doesn't flow the same way but introduces some soft guitar strumming. The fourth part reverts back closely resembling the previous flowing style of orchestral and electronic arrangements which eventually fade into the fifth and final arrangement that provides a sense of finality as it wraps up the last minute or so of this piece.
The ambient soundscapes really come out in "Wings tattered, fallen" with an overall portrayal much like "Fin de Siecle" with a feeling of floating through the ether while Lucian's vocals hold you enraptured. The music, lyrics and vocals blend so well on this song to give an overall feeling of sadness and longing that could make anyone nostalgic. "Fitfull" is another instrumental piece which relies heavily on ambient textures that build and flow, adding layer upon layer including vocal samples that brings out imagery of a chorus of angels singing. This brings us to the title track and my first true introduction to this group and this album. "Remnants of a deeper purity" is the perfect title for this piece and the album as portrayed through the lyrics and awesome musical arrangements. This song is unique in it's entire composition, featuring some steady guitar strumming, tambourine and harmonized male vocals while angelic female vocals hang in the air like a waving shear tapestry in the cool breeze.
"Again, to drift (for Veronika)" is another instrumental piece featuring a beautiful piano arrangement accented by beautiful, soaring synthesized strings. I can never get enough of this piece, the title explains it so well, drifting along to the mesmerizing music is exactly what the listener does when listening to this song. This provides an excellent segue into the finale on this album, "I have no more answers". Again, the listener is enveloped in the thick emotional moods of pain, longing, sadness... unanswered questions. These are portrayed not only through the lyrics, but once again, the music and vocals come together as one and provide the substance of this piece, finalizing the disc and leaving the listener just begging for more.
This feeling of wanting more is exactly what I was thinking after I heard this album, so then I picked up everything ever recorded as Black Tape for a Blue Girl
, and now we have this second bonus disc to enjoy as well. While it doesn't really bring out anything really "new" per se, it has some great material on it. "en la mar ay una torre" is an extract from "with my sorrows" of Oscar singing the spanish part accapella, and done so well as only he can do. "with my sorrows (part 2)" again features Oscar doing a short excerpt from the original track and then drifting off into various instrumental excerpts. "with my sorrows (part 3)" is not quite 100% instrumental with some vocal arrangements without lyrics are presented, again featuring these excerpts and "remixes" from the original pieces. Also present is the "radio edit" of "I have no more answers", which is a nice, shorter excerpt from the original.
At this point we reach the three live tracks which are all presented well. If the reader has ever been to a live show from this group, it's amazing how well this finely orchestrated music can be performed live with a handful of instruments and just a few pre-recorded electronic tracks. "redefine pure faith", "through sky blue rooms" and "remnants of a deeper purity" are all presented in true form and recorded in front of a live audience.
"Across a thousand blades" may be the most well-known song from this band because of it's appearance on various compilations and it's club-friendly structure. The version presented on this disc is the same appearing on the Goth Box
compilation with some excellent guitars and drums. The final track is not listed on the tracklist or sleave anywhere and is actually so subtle that unless you really listen for 30 seconds or so, you'll probably miss it. It's just a short piece, another extract from the instrumental on the original disc and arranged into something of an epilogue or outro to the disc. And that wraps it up, another beautiful and astounding work from this group to be cherished for many years to come.
Halo Star - Review
Introducing the 9th full-length album by this group that has attained legendary status among the ethereal gothic fans. This latest album continues to build on the solid foundation that Sam Rosenthal has built over the years.
Now with 12 new tracks that venture further into the gothic realms featuring the best mix of violin, percussion, cello and combination of male and female vocals. Brett Helm (from Audra
) continues to be Sam's primary male vocalist for the second album in a row. Elysabeth Grant contributes her spell-binding angelic vocals again on several tracks. Michael Laird (from Unto Ashes
) presents us with his talents on many tracks including percussion and guitar. Lisa Feuer plays the flute on several songs and Vicki Richards continues to carve out beautiful masterpieces on her violin.
For long-time fans, this becomes another great chapter in the history of Black Tape for a Blue Girl
. The music and style remain pretty much the same in many ways, but in others Sam is exploring new ground and going back to the days of "Across a Thousand Blades" with up-tempo tracks like the first single "Tarnished". This could possibly become a great club track similar to the famous "Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove" by Dead Can Dance
Overall the flow of the album is quite standard and enjoyable, influenced by Sam's upcoming book, there is a thematic element much like the previous album The Scavenger Bride
. But as I listen sometimes I long for the long and flowing songs of the era of Remnants of a Deeper Purity
and A Chaos of Desire
. The long melodic and droning songs (sometimes up to 20 minutes) could often send me into a dream-like state the entire duration. But this feeling isn't lost on many, though shorter songs like "Damn Swan", "Already Forgotten" and others where Elysabeth takes the lead on the vocals and Lisa or Vicki play their haunting instruments.
There is also quite a bit of variety we really haven't heard from this group. A creative and somber example is "The Grave Diggers" which sounds like something right out of an Edgar Allen Poe book with the slightly morbid message in short-story form. Another fun treat is the slightly jazzy sound of "Knock Three Times" with nice tongue-in-cheak lyrics like "knock three times on your coffin if you want my love, twice on the pipe if the answer, answer is no".
These combinations of creativity and a bit of fun is a great addition to this album. Fans of the great ethereal gothic music are going to love this album's somber moods and spellbinding music. Sam and his accomplices have managed to pull it off again with great style.
Tarnished - Review
After what has seemed like a very long wait since the last full-length release The Scavenger Bride
in 2002, we're now presented with this teaser three-track single.
This provides us a look into the long-awaited album Halo Star
due in August of this year (2004). After listening to this album several times, I think the legend of this band will continue to live on in yet another album.
The title track takes us back to the earlier years of Black Tape
when we were presented with tracks like "Across a Thousand Blades" where the music moves through a wave of percussion and driving layered instruments. The inclusion of Bret Helm
on vocals adds to the ferocity of this track with his deep vocals resonating sharply. Since I've been a fan of this group over many years, it's taken me time to adjust from the smooth, spanish tenor of Oscar Herrera
to Bret's harsher, deep vocals, but with this track I think they've managed to find a very nice match.
From my favorite past album they've resurrected the title track "Remnants of a Deeper Purity" and re-recorded it with Bret on vocals in a different key. Lisa's flute adds a smooth and dreamy feeling to this incredible and classic recording. The addition of percussion is also a nice treat as I've always thought this track was quite moving but lacked a beat to drive it home, but have always loved it nonetheless.
Finally we're brought to the real gem of this release, "Damn Swan". Elysabeth Grant
has managed to portray her siren-like vocals once again in this masterpiece. Of course I can't fail to mention the compositions and electronics all provided by the mastermind behind this group Sam Rosenthal
. Other credits obviously go to Michael Laird and Vickie Richards for their contributions which I've failed to mention until now, and I realize the contribute quite a bit of what makes these songs so incredible. These three tracks are an excellent look into the future as we hope for 10 or more tracks like these to be included on the new album. But the exclusive nature of this single is enough to recommend picking it up rather than just waiting for the album, it's well worth it.
Label: Projekt Records