Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Rope - (1986)

The debut Black Tape album, especially in light of the band's later efforts, makes for an interesting listen in retrospect. On the one hand, much of what would make Black Tape so distinct is already in place: vocalist Oscar Herrera's passionate interpretation of Rosenthal's romantically obsessed lyrics, Rosenthal's own moody, haunting contributions on keyboards, atmospheric instrumental pieces, and more. "Hide in Yourself," later featured on the A Teardrop Left Behind compilation, is an especially good example. On the other hand, The Rope is fairly rough and ready in comparison to something like Ashes in the Brittle Air or Remnants of a Deeper Purity, including some of the most explicitly rock-oriented material the group ever recorded. In part this is due to multi-instrumentalist Allan Kraut, who contributes drums, guitar, and bass, or some combination of them, on about half the tracks, along with writing three of the songs with Rosenthal. Also, the sheer depth of later Black Tape music makes the comparatively less full arrangements here sound more like demos. By no means is this criticism, it's just that those expecting the Black Tape aesthetic to have been fully formed from the start will be initially surprised with The Rope, but will find its charms to be plentiful in the end. Certainly one inspired constant of the band — the use of numerous guest performers on any particular album — pays dividends here. Two violinists, Candy Sherlock and Lara Radford, contribute haunting airs to a number of songs, while clarinet and cello both appear on the lovely instrumental "Seven Days Till Sunrise." Adam Buhler's subtle guitar work on "Within These Walls" matches Herrera and Kim Prior's vocals while nicely offsetting the rough drumming, while on the sweetly beautiful title track, the combination of violin, clarinet, vocals, and electronics is simply, perfectly enchanting. (

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