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Milosh Furthers the Ominously Erotic Soft-Soul Revolution on ‘Jetlag’

SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Label: Deadly/eOne Music Canada

It’s been a banner year for Mike Milosh, the Toronto-raised, L.A.-based electronic musician whose delicate, cocooning contralto illuminated Woman, the soft-soul March debut from Rhye. Rounded out by Quadron’s Robin Hannibal, the duo set snapshots of summer love and tender pillow-talk sessions to sprightly, subdued funk and sparse, sighing ballads; fuelled by the group’s early anonymity, a reputation for intimate and intense seated shows, and slick but searching music videos, the record was a low-key hit that earned a long-list spot for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize.

Such tempered but earnest accolades have been almost a decade in the making for Milosh. Prior to Rhye, the trained cellist was making downtempo electronic soul — similar in sound, though chillier in aura — from Berlin, releasing three albums via L.A. label Plug Research. Jetlag, his first solo effort since 2008’s iii, sees him applying the downy eclecticism of his pre-Rhye work to a new stage of life: Though boasting a better-realized thematic directive and a more expansive sound, his distinct vocals and clear aesthetic allow for continuity. This is no debut.

A tribute album to love (more specifically, his wife Alexa Nikolas) Jetlag splices field recordings of domestic intimacy into a leaden sonic landscape. But that steely pallor of fuzzed-out synth lines, muffled hand-claps, and solo piano doesn’t make the result any less cozy — this is a soundtrack to gray skies and long days lost indoors with a loved one.

“I feel it in my bones / I’m in a different state,” Milosh coos on the title track, as an undulating four-bar bass line metabolizes bits of percussive ephemera into a thudding, ominous, omnipresent mass. It’s an impressive bit of music, emboldened by the juxtaposition between its genderless, multi-tracked vocals and the repetitive synth patches of melody. The quick pulse and hard-breathing tension of “Hear in You” mirrors Nikolas’ sampled gasps on “Don’t Call it,” a plaintive mid-tempo piano ballad. There’s a possessiveness to the way Milosh’s music wantonly engulfs its romantic muse; it’s suffocating at times. Whether it’s also erotic is up to you, of course. The best mood music transfixes; merely excellent, Jetlag is sometimes too easily relegated to the background.