OTW #492: Rhye

Soul Brother Redux
Clash Magazine OTW #492: Rhye by Neil Bedford

“If people looked us up, they could find out who were are in ten seconds. We’re not trying to hide our identities.”

There is nothing mysterious about Rhye. Mike Milosh is the singer from Canada who’s been down with the love movement since 2006, maybe earlier. Robin Hannibal is the producer from Denmark with multiple ensembles - Quadron, Boom Clap Bachelors, Owusu And Hannibal - and a solid reputation on Europe’s indie circuit. They both now live in LA. 

Aside from the stripped cacophony of sound, Rhye’s aesthetic does not favour Sade. “What’s really interesting is that we’ve never really listened to Sade,” says Robin. “I’ve only heard about four or five songs. It’s probably just a feeling.” 

Be an astute observer, and you’ll hear remnants of Maxwell, Al B Sure! and Aaron Neville in Mike’s buttery vocals - it doesn’t end there, either. Rhye’s delivery encapsulates the ethos of soul music, a genre with a past renowned for crooners offering a sappy take on submitting to the heart’s desires. Note: the most memorable figures were black men (bear in mind, Robin rightfully cites Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Annie Lennox as soulful artists, too). So while it’s tempting to settle with what’s on the surface, there is a lot of cultural texture to the group’s minimalist style. But because of Mike’s smooth soprano, perhaps it’s easier to juxtapose Rhye to a woman-led, contemporary R&B group than an Afro anti-alpha male who’s not afraid to admit he’s a fool for love (“I’m a fool for the shake in your thighs,” sings Mike on ‘Open’). “We didn’t want to brand this product on our faces,” explains Robin. “It was a conscientious decision - almost from the get-go. We didn’t want it to be about what we were wearing, or how cool or uncool we were. It’s about the music. And we were doing different things while we were doing Rhye. So we didn’t want any biases. I know that because I do it also.”

The gentlemen behind Rhye are punctilious students, re-working old themes over an electronic-fused, orchestral backdrop. Off the strength of ‘Woman’, their ten-track debut album, the void they’re filling has earned them a ram-packed tour schedule. In a world riddled with contradictions, the duo provides the kind of reassurance that most women - and men - need to hear. If this is considered an androgynous alternative, depending on how you choose to hear them, so be it. 

Words: SAFRA DUCREAY
Photography: NEIL BEDFORD

Where: L.A. by way of Denmark and Canada
What: Soul Brother Redux 
Get 3 Songs: ‘Open’, ‘The Fall’, ‘Last Dance’
Unique Fact: Robin is passionate about films. So much so, that he used to want to work in a video rental store. Unfortunately, Blockbuster wasn’t hiring at the time. 

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