Black Tape For A Blue Girl - Biography
Black Tape for a Blue Girl has had every imaginable sort of sub-genre tag stuck to its sound: darkwave, ethereal, ambient, dream pop. If there’s some sort of problem in finding a convenient categorization of the group’s sound, perhaps it’s because that sound is so expertly conceived and stylistically innovative that it achieves escape velocity and transcends genre. Blame Sam Rosenthal, the man behind, and in front of the group. Rosenthal is a singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer, plus he owns and operates Projekt Records, the band’s label. Black Tape for a Blue Girl is his show, and like any good showman, he knows how to please a crowd. Over nearly 25 years and ten albums, Rosenthal has staged a widescreen presentation full of thrills, chills, drama, romance, melancholy, and outright heartbreak, all beneath the baleful gaze of the breathtakingly lovely goth ladies that grace his exquisitely art-directed album covers.
It started with the 1986 debut, The Rope (1986 Projekt Records). Fans of the group’s later albums may be surprised if they haven’t heard this. The Rope clearly owes a debt to some of the moodier post-punk acts of the early 80s, and it’s charmingly incongruent to hear the Spartan analog synth warblings in comparison to the technically sophisticated keys of subsequent records. Allan Kraut handles all of the duties in the rhythm section, providing a rock ‘n’ roll pulse that seems almost archaic. The follow-up LP inches closer towards the signature sound, although Mesmerized by the Sirens (1987 Project Records) is still feeling the gravitational pull of the debut, although Rosenthal deploys a wonderful array of singers; it’s the third record that really floats. Ashes in the Brittle Air (1989 Projekt Records) is a sublime combination of goth-rock charge and gossamer vocals and keys.
A Chaos of Desire (1991 Projekt Records) is an even more adroit work, with expertly crafted performances, and gauzy vocals from guest Julianna Towns; J'anna Jacoby (from Black Watch) provides some crushingly sorrowful string parts on the excellent “We Watch Our Sad-Eyed Angel Fall.” The fifth album, This Lush Garden Within (1992 Projekt Records), has a rare cover, Laurie Anderson's "Gravity's Angel"; it’s a haunting rendition, sung with absolute luminosity by Susan Jennings (who also sprawls, nude, on the front-cover photograph). However, it’s the next several records that really elevate Black Tape for a Blue Girl above the rest of the darkwave pack. Remnants of a Deeper Purity (1996 Projekt) is blissfully lush, self-assured synthesis, in which Rosenthal creates vistas in which the orchestral instruments and electronics merge in splendor. As One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire (1999 Projekt) is a bewitching, intellectually facile homage to the works of Marcel Duchamp; The Scavenger Bride (2002 Projekt) takes inspiration from both Franz Kafka and Sonic Youth.
The ninth album from Black Tape for a Blue Girl is 2004’s Halo Star (2004 Projekt). It’s typically luxurious, but with far more acoustic guitars than any of the other albums, and more than a few nods the arts of the cabaret. After Halo Star, Rosenthal took a break for five years, in part to concentrate on Projekt, which has blossomed into the preeminent voice for ambient, and darkwave groups. Acts include: Voltaire; Android Lust; electronic pioneer Steve Roach; the French ensemble, Dark Sanctuary; Unto Ashes; and Florida-based shoegazers, Mira. However, Black Tape for a Blue Girl returned at full strength in 2009 with 10 Neurotics (2009 Projekt). It continues in the humorous, wily, cabaret-themed sensuality of its predecessor, and songs like “Sailor Boy” and “Inchworm” ooze a decadent, Weimar charm; elsewhere, Rosenthal takes casually masterful turns at folk, pop, and intimate aural soundscapes, demonstrating that after 25 years, he remains one of the most versatile voices in the post-goth scene.