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Monday, Oct. 11, 2010

Blonde Redhead

Penny Sparkle (4AD)

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The lineup of Blonde Redhead—two Italian brothers, Amedeo and Simone Pace, and one Japanese woman, Kazu Makino—almost makes the band so exotic as to be from another planet. From its 1995 self-titled debut up through 1998’s In An Expression of the Inexpressible, Blonde Redhead could indeed have been from Venus by way of its members’ home countries, speaking a musical language of organized clatter and spiky riffs.

Then the trio gradually softened into something more reflective and familiar, if still not quite from this Earth. After the mesmerizing transition of 2007’s strange and beautiful 23, the overtly electronic (or electronica) sound of Penny Sparkle could be Blonde Redhead’s most accessible work yet, but not in a deliberate sense.

With the help of three producers—Alan Moulder, Van Rivers, and the Subliminal Kid—Blonde Redhead simultaneously strides and drifts into songs that seem to be dreamed rather than created. Makino’s voice makes a near-perfect guide through the deep-sleep logic of the music; she coos like a little girl but inhabits the moment just like a woman.

The easy access of the Depeche Mode-reminiscent “Not Getting There” leads into the spare title track, the uneasy echoes of “Everything Is Wrong” and the Portishead-meets-Jobim duet of “Black Guitar.” The noisy confrontation of early Blonde Redhead is long gone from Penny Sparkle, but what remains is still eerie and unsettling and curiously romantic.