Seattle solo act Perfume Genius presents songs that resemble entrancing spectres laced in touching sincerity, but their wallowing natures leaves them a little hard to take unless in the right mood.
It's always wonderful when you put on a new CD and are struck by something startlingly unfamiliar. Such is the first impression given by Perfume Genius' 'Learning'. Though the debut album from Seattle based musician Mike Hadreas opens with just a simple piano skeleton, it's immediately stirring, and becomes increasingly so as slight, insubstantial harmonies quiver above Hadreas' nervy and insecure sounding voice.
That's just the title track, and by it the bar is set. High. Too high, in fact. The tone and dynamic change little from here on out - Hadreas' slow and almost crude piano is occasionally filled out with airy, ambient synths - but that early feeling of revelation is not to be repeated. Without drawing a direct comparison, the initial effect is similar to that of Bon Iver's acclaimed 'For Emma For Ever Ago'; one song is so spellbindingly beautiful that the rest seem drab in comparison.
And of course they are drab, in the sense that the entire mood of 'Learning' is one of tender sorrow, weariness and longing. But it's so stark, so bleak, so desolate, and so utterly saturated with emotion, that it's impossible not to be affected. Under the right circumstances, 'Learning' may be exceptionally exquisite, but by god you'd need to be depressed.