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CD Review: Ella Blame, Ineffable Desire

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The Ella Blame duo combines Michael D. Temple’s hypnotic electronica with Ella Blame’s snaky vocals. Blame’s voice is a startlingly versatile instrument prone to a metallic nasality. Some of Temple’s music is quite pretty, while Blame’s voice most of the time isn’t, and that makes for interesting contrasts.

The duo has a strong experimental streak, which shows first in a spacy coda to the third track, which is called, appropriately, “How Things Have Changed.” Then, in the frenetic “Thought Control” and the experimental “Another Side,” both with music by guest collaborator Shinji Imai, Blame shows off the baritone end of her huge range, along with her hisses and moans and piercing high notes.

She unveils a fluttery soprano for the spooky, deceptively simple ballad “I Can’t Sleep.” In fact, it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that Blame’s voice is to a normal person’s voice as Robert Patrick’s shape-shifting Terminator was to the stolidly anthropomorphic Schwartzenegger model.

In true Ella Blame style, “Dance With Me” isn’t danceable at all. Instead, it sounds like vocal exercises from another planet, with a ghostly trace of “Eleanor Rigby.” In the wonderfully off-center “Swamp of Lead,” Blame works with Kilian Thon’s jerky beats to create an awkwardly seductive love song reminiscent of “Working in a Coal Mine.” The lyrics are typical, surrealistic Blame:

Swamp of lead, / It doesn’t matter.
Swamp of lead, / It doesn’t matter…
I miss you, forget you,
Adore you, despise you…
I can’t go back / And I can’t go ahead.
It’s like sticking / In a swamp of lead.

In “Covered With Sweat,” one of my favorite tracks, there’s a duck playing a muted trumpet – but no, that’s Ella Blame’s voice too. And if the Human League had written “Evita” it might have sounded something like “So Special.”

If you like interesting electronica and appreciate unusual vocalizing, you should check out Ella Blame. The CD and song samples are available here.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Jon,

    I promoted this review to Advance.net. That means I put it here (and these places) where it could potentially be read by another few hundred thousand readers.

    – Thank you for the post. Temple Stark

  • Junior

    This review says it all. I consider the music by Ella Blame the most interesting of all music currently available. These guys are definitely the spearhead of modern pop music.