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Album Review

Blonde Redhead, 'Penny Sparkle'

September 13, 2010

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In the last decade and a half, what’s made Blonde Redhead — a band with no enduring sonic identity — consistently impressive is its ability to evolve significantly at each turn without making leaps too grandiose or unnatural. The trio’s latest effort falls in step with this pattern, delving into territories more gothic, synth-centric, and sparse than anything we’ve heard, but loyally touting the thick thread of haunting melancholy woven through its discography. “Love or Prison,’’ the most powerful representation of the band’s newest face, strongly eschews the baroque orchestration developed on 2004’s “Misery Is a Butterfly’’ and 2007’s “23’’ in favor of a simple synth line that pulsates and builds ominously beneath frontwoman Kazu Makino’s otherworldly vocals and vulnerable lyrical concessions. The rare moments of dense production — most notably on “Everything Is Wrong’’ — are the only points that feel like regression. The exploration of yet another new form on “Penny Sparkle’’ shows how exquisitely Blonde Redhead can continue to add cogs to an amorphous musical wheel without tripping up. (Out tomorrow)

CARRIE BATTAN

ESSENTIAL “Love or Prison’’