Released at the height of the coronavirus pandemic (which is a pretty big thing for any record to overcome), Blisss builds upon Rodriguez Jr’s efforts with Baobab, his previous record on Mobilee, which was shortlisted by many industry folks as a record of the year. So will this one. Blisss is made for listening, and though several of the tracks are DJ-ready from the moment you rip them out of the packaging, its in the intimacy of earpods that this record truly makes its most strongest impact. Rodriguez Jr is a master of texture, of giving shape to droning fuzz and the sound of electricity like a sculptor working with clay. He’s done his best work on the softest, most fragile edge of electronic music, and that’s still true here on Blisss.
“Polaroïd” is a case in point: nearly 7 minutes run for a subtly shifting motif dragged through beats that sound almost quiet, almost soothing. “Santa Cruz” makes the persuasive argument that we should tear off the labels and go back to calling it all techno or electronica. This is ecstatic music, exquisitely arranged: Rodriguez Jr makes his tracks sing without a single lyric or any other human’s participation.
Though on two tracks there is a human vessel for this evocative lyricism. “What Is Real” and “Here To Forget You” are just beautifully crafted pop songs. Both feature the vocals of Liset Alea, the latest from Nouvelle Vague’s seemingly never-ending fount of talented singers, with an intriguing voice that sounds somewhere between an impassioned plea and an exhausted whisper.
By the end of “Nairobi” Rodriguez Jr has left nothing on the table and as a listener there’s not much else you could expect. I walked away from this thinking it was one of the best albums I’ve heard this year; I came back a week later and my thinking didn’t change.
Photo via Rodriguez Jr on Bandcamp.
Rodriguez Jr.: Blisss / Mobilee (April 2020 / 2 x 12″ Vinyl/Digital)
A1. Rodriguez Jr.: “Haussmann” (6:09)
A2. Rodriguez Jr.: “What Is Real” (feat Liset Alea) (6:19)
B1. Rodriguez Jr.: “Polaroid” (6:43)
B2. Rodriguez Jr.: “Blisss” (6:54)
C1. Rodriguez Jr.: “Santa Cruz” (6:35)
C2. Rodriguez Jr.: “Here To Forget” (feat Liset Alea) (5:00)
D1. Rodriguez Jr.: “Monolith Garden” (7:52)
D2. Rodriguez Jr.: “Nairob” (5:24)