SENSUOUS ENEMY – Fragments
After five years of darkly sensuous live performances around the Midwest – but only issuing one self-released demo during that time – Sensuous Enemy have finally inked a deal with Madison record label Sonic Mainline and released a professionally produced CD entitled Fragments. It has been seen on some of the best-of-the-year lists in the local media (most notably Isthmus) and there are good reasons for that.
Though Sensuous Enemy has had a revolving door membership, the one constant throughout the iconoclastic band’s existence has been singer Jai. Her style has been rightfully compared to Annie Lennox (and the band sometimes covers the Eurithmics’ “Missionary Man” at their live shows) and it is her tremendous vocal range (which she attended college classes to hone) that makes the band difficult to compare to any other dark electronic act out there. In the opening track “Whispers” her tone changes from a deep robotic recitation of the verses to screaming choruses that might shatter the cocktail glasses at the bars they’ve played. Perhaps the most impressive track is “Das Granen”, a slow guitar-heavy dirge sung in German where Jai impersonates an evil opera singer and almost seems to be channeling something from the demonic underworld.
In a day and age when many artists record and mix their music on home computers, the production of this CD was outsourced to Wade Alin (who has worked with artists as diverse as Jennifer Lopez and Sister Machine Gun) and the resulting quality is noticeable. Although there are crunchy guitars throughout the disc (with the exception of a few of the remixes near the end, and there’s a good one by Hawaiian EBM act Razed In Black), this is in no way a part of the so-called “industrial metal” genre. This is pure electro / EBM, with synths that are more original than many of their synthpop peers and thumping beats (although toned down slightly more than what one usually hears today in the genre) that have helped them get spins at the Inferno and the Cardinal. And it’s very catchy electro as well; it only takes a couple of listens to get the songs jammed in one’s head and they’re difficult to remove without the assistance of a crowbar.
Given Jai’s vocal talent, it’s somewhat surprising to hear an instrumental here (“WIIJD”) but creative synths and elegant piano playing make it stand nicely on its own. The originals are followed by a cover of the Pet Shop Boys’ 1980’s classic “Its A Sin,” and while it’s refreshing to hear it from a female perspective, it’s a good sign when a band’s originals outshine their covers.
With Fragments finally seeing the light of day, the band members have promised to spend 2009 focusing on improving their already enthralling live shows. With the lineup stabilized for now (as simply the duo of Jai and John), we hopefully won’t have to wait a long time to hear another opus like this from them.