Bloodgroup is one of the only bands that truly blew my mind the first time I heard them.
It was October 13, 2010 at 10:30 PM local time in Reykjavik, Icleand, when they hit the stage at NASA. The show up to that point had been pretty decent, but I was really looking forward to seeing the following band, Agent Fresco, and since I’d never heard of Bloodgroup before my expectations were modest. And then the hit the stage. With synths, and electronics, and crazy outfits, and the two most impossibly attractive singers (one male, one female) you’ve ever seen. And the music. The music…
We got to meet the group about five months later when they visited Seattle as the opening band in a small bar in Fremont. How they ended up there, I’ll never know, but the show was sold out so on a whim I emailed the band and asked if there was a chance we could get on the guest list. And we did! We hung out with them a bit before the show and they were great, and then we saw them on stage and they were amazing. Again. We turned our friend Tristen onto them, and when he came with us to Airwaves in 2012 Bloodgroup was atop his “must see” list, so when we saw them at Harpa (shown here) we made a point of not staying on the fringes of the room but wading right up towards the front, and it was awesome. It was there we heard some of the tracks from Tracing Echoes for the first time.
Tristen sent me an IM today. He thought that Tracing Echoes was finally being released on iTunes in the US. As soon as I got home I checked, and while Holly toiled in the kitchen I found it and downloaded it. The anticipation. I couldn’t wait to listen to it. So after dinner, with some coffee and dessert (Girl Scout thin mint cookies, if you must know), we sat down to listen to Tracing Echoes.
We noticed when we saw the band at Airwaves that the new material had a “darker” sound to it, and that certainly comes across throughout the album. Tracing Echoes has a distinctive mood to it. The pace and beats are deep and slow, reminiscent of their song “Moonstone” from Dry Land, and when it all comes together you’ll literally stop breathing while you listen.
The first two tracks set the tone for the rest of the album, with slow electronic drumbeats. But then “Nothing Is Written in the Stars” comes on, and Sunna’s voice is absolutely stunning. She sings slow and low, the music a perfect accompaniment to her sultry voice that just oozes in and out of the beats. My first time through, this was undoubtedly my favorite track.
“Nothing Is Written in the Stars” is immediately followed by another fantastic piece of work, “The Fall,” that gives Janus a chance to bring the male voice to the forefront with short verses, enhanced by echo and some nice backing vocals. “A King’s Woe” is another great example where Janus takes control of a song with his voice, and when he and Sunna come together on “Mysteries Undone,” the album’s closing track, it’s as if everything you’d been listening to up to that point culminated in one near-perfect experience.
Bloodgroup seems to really explore the musical side of the band in Tracing Echoes. It doesn’t have any “poppy” material and holds it’s darker mood and slower pace throughout, with longer tracks (three songs longer than five minutes apiece) that aren’t designed to be “radio friendly,” but something meant to be absorbed as a whole, in one sitting. Bloodgroup didn’t give me what I expected with their third album, though the songs we heard at Airwaves hinted at where they were exploring with Tracing Echoes. It’s a departure from much of Dry Land and Sticky Situation, certainly one that required a bit of courage to step outside a formula that obviously worked for them. I for one give them a lot of credit, and I expect that over the coming weeks this is going to get a lot of play on my iTouch while I get more and more comfortable in this slower soundscapes that Hallur and Raggi have created.