The Sensual Sounds of Rhye

Just over a year after their debut album Woman was released, Rhye made a stop in Vancouver. LYFSTYL spoke with Mike Milosh, the Toronto born/LA based musician who makes up one half of the duo, before his show at the Commodore Ballroom on July 4.  

With sensually simple visuals that accompanied the first sounds released off Woman, Rhye created quite the stir. “Open” and “The Fall” reached critical acclaim as speculation formed around the artists who produced such stripped down, soulful R&B singles. Still, Mike Milosh, insists the initial mystery surrounding Rhye was unintentional.

“There’s been this idea that we hid who we were, but everything that we put out had our names on it,” says Canadian musician Mike Milosh.

To both Milosh and Rhye’s other half, Danish producer Robin Hannibal (born Robin Braun), Rhye was a side project meant to be separate from their previous, respective works. Milosh has released four albums under his own name—the most recent being 2013’s Jetlag—and Hannibal is a part of electronic soul duo Quadron.

Rhye began as a week-long recording session between the Milosh and Hannibal in 2010. The pair shared a jazz background and record label Plug Research, and both moved from Europe to LA where they later reconnected. While the project was born by a duo, it is Milosh who is signed to Universal and criss-crosses the globe to tour the album.

Despite the releasing his fourth solo record Jetlag only six months after Rhye’s debut, Milosh is careful to keep the projects separate.

“I didn’t want to be the masthead of Rhye, I just wanted to put the music out there and let people experience it on their own,” Milosh explains. “There would be no distinction between Milosh and Rhye, other than that one sounds more electronic and one more organic.”

Milosh describes his solo work as less commercially accessible than the earthy, straight ahead song structures that frame Woman, but is deliberate in bringing experimentation to Rhye’s live sets.

“We’ve changed the record,” Milosh says of the group of talented musicians who’ve helped tour the album around the world. “I didn’t want to make a set that sounded like the record; that would be kind of boring. I wanted to do something a little more open…and then have moments that are very controlled.”

“Open” was one of the first singles we heard from Rhye, and is the lead track whose strings pull the listener into the down tempo yearning and bare intimacy that is Woman. Through its breathy chorus, the vocalist asks not only his lover, but his audience and his live band to “stay open.”

“I’m always looking for this very special feeling on stage where you can’t describe it, there’s something magical about it, and I think that comes with allowing the set to evolve and change,” says Milosh. “I’ll change this or that so it’ll be interesting and challenging for us to play and there’s never a moment where it stagnates.”

Rhye’s show at the Commodore embodied Milosh’s search for evolution in his work. The set washed slowly, pointedly in with “Verse,” carried by the hazy purity that is Milosh’s looping vocals and the accompanying violin and cello. The bass line in “Open” was stripped down, while “Last Dance” hit distinct punches below a fitting trombone solo that flavoured the lo-fi electronic set with funk.

Woman  runs just short of 40 minutes, and in combination with Milosh’s principled aversion to cover songs, the Commodore show ran shorter than the crowd wanted. Still, the show slotted itself neatly into Milosh’s music manifesto that spares no room for excess.

“I’m very conscientious about putting things out into the world that has very specific intention.” – Mike Milosh.

“If you’re singing things you don’t know about, you don’t know why you’re putting that out,” Milosh says on why he refuses to do cover songs. “You don’t know what the songs are really about.”

Woman was influenced largely by Milosh’s relationship with his wife. His lyrics stem from personal experiences, and in releasing his music without a fanfare persona, listeners are more able to attach their own understanding to the lyrics—making Rhye’s music as incredibly intimate as it is relatable.

As for Milosh’s future plans for Rhye, they remain open. Rhye is next scheduled to play in Mexico this coming November, and until then Milosh plans to work out a solo EP as well as a few other collaborations. Milosh’s growing portfolio is something to keep an eye on, and a second, light soul instalment of Rhye would be more than welcome.

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