Black Tape for a Blue Girl – With a million tear-stained memories

I realized that there wasn’t anything from Black Tape for a Girl reviewed yet @, and hardly anything of their label Projekt. A bit strange perhaps, considering the acclaimed status of these Americans in the gothic scene. Last Easter they were one of the headliners at the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig. The band was already started in 1986, by Projekt label founder Sam Rosenthal. In the following years Black Tape built up an impressive discography and quite some followers.

Their music is a subtle mixture of gothic rock and (dark)wave, with heavenly voices, ethereal and neo-classical elements. An electronic base is mixed with flutes and strings and various vocalists, who perform Sam’s poetic metaphor-ridden lyrics. The band is often sounding delicate and emotional, with an occasional more uptempo song. In the course of time the sound of Black Tape for a Blue Girl seems to become more bare, stripped to the essentials.

If you’re not very familiar with their music, the compilation “With a million tear-stained memories” is a good place to start. Two cd’s filled to the brim with no less than 31 tracks, showing the varied range of musical styles which Black Tape has on its repertoire. The two discs are clearly different from each other: Disc 1 contains ‘Vocal Tracks’, while Disc 2, you may have guessed it already, is comprised of ‘Instrumental Tracks’. Tracks are taken from all phases in their career, dating from 1986 till 2003. Of course there are also a few alternative versions of songs present, like a 2003 version of ‘Memory, uncaring friend’ or a Steve Roach remix of ‘Kinski’. As always the release has been carefully designed, with nice cover art and an extensive booklet with all the lyrics.

The aforementioned ‘Mentioned, uncaring friend’ is a quite creepy dense gothic rock track, somewhere between Bauhaus and more rocking Faith & the Muse material. Perhaps not one of my favourite Black Tape songs, but certainly suprising. Nevertheless the romantic ‘The Broken Glass’ is more to my liking, an atmospheric ballad with various great male and female vocalists and moody electronics. Lovely is the acoustic version of “Could I stay the longest one?’, with nice guitars, flutes and an intimate female voice. On ‘Ashes in the brittle air’ drums and percussion play a larger role, accompanying floating female voices. ‘Griffith Park’ is perhaps a bit too smooth and bubblegum-like for me, but this is made up for by the heavy drama of ‘Russia’ from the 1999 “As One Aflame Laid Bare By Desire” album. Various other melancholic, romantic and introspective moments follow, and everyone will probably have his or her own favourites. One of mine is the piano-driven ballad ‘Floats in my updrafts’, from the recent “The Scavenger Bride”, reminding me of early Dead can Dance.

Though vocalists play an important role in Black Tape’s music, the instrumental disc proves that without them the music is worthwile too. Fourteen ethereal, classical compositions which makes you drift to higher spheres. Perhaps these songs are more effective when alternated with vocal compositions, but now they form a pleasant ambient album.

An exemplary compilation of a band which never confined itself to clear-cut genre boundaries or accessibility concessions!

artist: Black Tape for a Blue Girl
label: Sad Eyes
details: 2cd, 31 tracks. [tri173]