“Rush” – Black Gold

5 stars (out of 5)


Black Gold are 2 multi-instrumental Brooklyn musicians, Erick Ronick and Than Luu, who got together after their paths crossed repeatedly while on tour with various bands including Panic At The Disco and Scissor Sisters and decided to explore the special musical chemistry they generated. The result of this is the album “Rush”, preceded in the UK by the single “Breakdown”.

This is one of those albums that creates an instant impact from the dirty opening synth intro of “Detroit” and leads you through a kaleidoscope of musical styles. The arrangements feature electronic and acoustic instruments blended together with a batch of songs which ranges from ballads (“After The Flood”) to widescreen epics (“Plans And Reveries”) and everything in between.

Black Gold happily admit to incorporating their many musical influences into the patchwork quilt of “Rush” and invite us to identify the original sources of their sonic petty larceny if we can. There are various species of musical magpie: the “Jeff Lynne”, which steals audaciously and produces a wonderful song which is original and makes no attempt to hide the theft; the “Guy Chambers”, which uses a phrase which you recognise but you have to think about for a while before working out that it’s from “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” or “Dear Prudence”; and the species on display here which, like The Avalanches in 2000/2001, steals a couple of bars at a time from anywhere they can and throws them all in to the blender (you can spot a reference to Ronnie Wood’s playing on The Faces 1971 single “Stay With Me” if you listen carefully) . There is another species, the “Mika”, but we won’t go in to that.

Erick Ronick’s voice is strong enough and versatile enough to deal with an incredibly wide dynamic range, effortlessly moving from the solo acoustic arrangements to big electric and electronic songs and throwing in some interesting falsetto for good measure (and great vocal harmonies as well), while the varied styles and instrumentation make this an album that grabs the attention from the opening synth riff and refuses to let go.

A couple of tracks from this album (including “Plans And Reveries”) have already been used as incidental music on US TV shows and the rest of the album is strong enough to suggest that you could be hearing a lot of Black Gold in the next year or two.

There are albums which you can listen to once and all of their secrets are revealed; “Rush” isn’t one of those. This album rewards perseverance because each time you listen to it, you pick out another reference (or two, or three) to songs or styles which don’t necessarily jump out at you on the first listen.

And the bad news; maybe the programming of the tracks isn’t quite right. Towards the end, the album falls off dynamically, but this is minor criticism of a great debut album.

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