Black Tape For A Blue Girl, the highly accomplished purveyors of ethereal Darkwave & Neo-Classical music, return with their 11th album ‘These Fleeting Moments’, which also celebrates their 30th Anniversary. Not only is the album marking a momentous occasion for another milestone reached, this release sees the return of original vocalist Oscar Herrera after a long-term absence of 17 years.
At almost 18 minutes, the harrowing opener ‘The Vastness Of Life’ is a difficult song to get through. There is a progressive, musical narrative in the opening track, in essence a mini soundtrack of sorts. From the very beginning it evokes genuine bitterness with lyrics of such crushing, heart-felt honesty, whilst the long ambient passages and lamenting anguish of the viola solo part-way through this song contrast the initial bitterness, replacing the anger and resentment with sadness and self-reflection. Many subjects are interwoven within this piece, from personal regrets and the passage of time, to the benefits of hindsight and the regrets of a life unfulfilled.
‘Limitless’ is the most accessible track on the album and picks up both the tempo and mood. There is a lovely groove to the bass and the swirling synths perfectly match the the cosmic, somewhat spiritual subject matter.
The acoustic Neo-Folk number ‘One Promised Love’ is beautifully arranged. An emotionally charged, evocative and heart-felt acoustic ballad.
‘Bike Shop / Absolute Zero’ seems to be a personal song about an actual event, but reveals very little and leaves me questioning what the purpose of the story is. It’s a little strange and uncomfortable to listen to, which is maybe it’s sole purpose, but it does seem disjointed compared to the rest of the album.
The simplistic, sparse composition of ‘Affinity’ features delicate vocals accompanied by an arpeggio and smooth pad accompaniment from Sam Rosenthal’s vintage synths.
Next is a trilogy of instrumentals, two of which would be very fitting as part of a score for a dark, psychological thriller. ‘Please Don’t Go’ is reflective and lamenting, to the point I can feel the emotions pouring from the viola as it plays. In contrast, ‘Six Thirteen’ features heavy, rumbling drones and a solemn pounding drum, evoking a gloomy, grim atmosphere.
‘Zug Köln’, the third of the instrumental pieces is lively, up-beat and melodic and is a melting pot of genres, mixing Rock, Neo-Folk and Mittelalter (Medieval music). Such a combination may seem like it would result in an unlistenable mess, but it’s perfectly palatable and the eclectic range of instrumentation works well together. The guitar solo is a particular highlight.
‘Meditation On The Skeleton’ is a pleasant surprise and marks the beginning of a transition towards a lighter mood for the remainder of the album. This track is quite literally an introspective guided meditation that is both grounding and incredibly blissful. There is definitely an exploration, or at least an inquisitiveness, of spirituality, focussing mostly on cosmic, Eastern and earth-based Shamanic practices.
‘Desert Rat-Kangaroo’ is a sobering song, referencing many now-extinct species as a way to pose the question of why we believe humans are more important than other living creatures on Earth. It asks why we think we are so important, whilst other creatures are now extinct, or on the brink of extinction, largely due to our impact on this planet.
Oscar’s daughter Dani lends her vocals on another of Sam’s more personal relationship songs, ‘She’s Gone’. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, delicate synths and a gentle rhythm, Dani’s vocals are suitably delicate for this style of song and faultlessly express the lyrical sentiments.
‘She Ran So Far Away…’ brings back the electric line-up in hazy, shoe-gaze fashion. This track is heavy on reverb, with a steady tempo and constantly building musical soundscape capped off with a brief vocal passage before gently ebbing away to its close.
The final track is a touching, warm-hearted song composed to represent a conversation from a father to his son from the elder’s death-bed. The message is a poignant reminder that whilst we live only for this brief moment, the memories and cherished experiences we carry within us are far more valuable than life itself. It’s filled with sentiment and leaves me feeling a real sense of completion having journeyed through the entire album, making the transition from the bleak and resentful opener to the resolute and enlightened closing song.
The brutally honest and partly cryptic way in which Black Tape For A Blue Girl present their material may not appeal to all and it can be a challenge to truly understand exactly what message the band are trying to convey, but that’s what I find so appealing.
This is an album that requires multiple listens to unravel the various themes and lyrical dialogue within and for the most rewarding experience, I personally recommend investing time to listen to the whole album in a single session, as the story arc running through it has been brilliantly designed.
With the exception of ‘Limitless’, the songs may not have a great deal of appeal individually, but it would be unfair to expect them to do so, as I believe Sam’s intention was to present the album as one cohesive body of work, rather than a collection of individual songs that simply have a common subject or style to connect them.