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Blood Cultures: LUNO

Experimental pop group Blood Cultures, an anonymous musical project originally from New Jersey, is back with their newest album LUNO, a collection of songs detailing morbid and offbeat stories of disenfranchisement and unfairness in the uncertainty of our times. Coming just less than two years since their last album, Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs, their newest creates worlds of graveyards illuminated under bright moons, creating a progressive psychedelic pop sound that’s both haunting and exciting.

Beginning as a solo effort by a first-generation Pakistani-American, the group later expanded into a quartet, but they continue to keep their identities private in order to achieve their musical goals. Attempting to deconstruct the ideals of beauty and social standards seen in both the Western world’s ideas of masculinity and in the social subjugation of women in the Eastern world, the group typically dons either ski masks or hijabs, effectively covering their entire faces and keeping their identity mum. Paired with tuxedos, vague lyrics and at times indistinguishable vocals, the group subverts many of the self-indulgent trends of modern-day music to create a fresh and unique electropop record.

Running only eight songs in length, the album is an artistic achievement with its experimental style and layered, glitchy and circling beats. It feels as though the songs were composed with heavy use of the copy and paste functions of their soundboard. Four of the albums eight tracks premiered before the entire collection’s release, with the first being “Keeps Bringing Me Back” in January and the eerie “When the Night Calls…” late last month, each with entrancing videos full of monochromatic colors and strange plotlines.

Despite not following many of the conventions of songwriting and structure, “Keeps Bringing Me Back” is able to hook the listener with a repetitive beat that swells and wanes over lyrics that depict a woman digging up a grave. It paints both a disturbing yet somehow loving image: “Give up everything we had to have some more/ Falling from the heavens to be at your door.

“Deep Sea Diver” begins with a happier beat, a light guitar paired with and then drowned out by an increasingly distorted and electronic beat. The words are nearly impossible to understand, while the whistling is reminiscent of fellow musical enigma Orville Peck, whose gay and sexy vibe undercuts all that is traditional in country music. On “Set It on Fire” the group tells of a relationship in its final act, where one has trapped the other with a noose around its neck. “And that’s just not cool,” they sing, chillingly and callously over the final ringing of church bells.

The tracks focus on specific verses or sounds that repeat and draw the listener in, while vague and at points unintelligible lyrics both force and allow the listener to create worlds of their own, filling in the details to the stories as they see fit. Blood Cultures only gives enough to get the listener started, then you have to do the rest of the work. This isn’t a poppy Olivia Rodrigo anthem detailing high school feelings or Lana Del Rey’s visceral depictions of classic Hollywood and ill-fated relationships, this is melodrama in another sense completely. Morbidity peaks on “Graveyard Vibes,” which opens with drums and electric guitars and is set during the witching hour in a cemetery. “We know where you go where you sleep at night/ Graveyard vibes/ The dead will rise,” they sing during the chorus, the song becoming increasingly nightmarish.

LUNO closes with “Beneath the Moon & Me,” one of the more intensely electronic tracks. From calm verses describing looking into the future only to be disappointed with oneself, the middle of the song rachets up the whomping and stomping production, only to fizzle once again into a light and twinkling finish. “I’ll hate me when I’m older/ For what I have become/ Unless I give up what I’ve been holding/ When all is said and done,” they sing in the final moments, effectively achieving their intentions of disrupting the status quo.

Blood Cultures has created a world of both despair and light with LUNO, letting vague lyrics and repetitious beats inform the listener just enough to fill in the details themselves. Blood Cultures has created a world of both despair and light with LUNO, letting vague lyrics and repetitious beats inform the listener just enough to fill in the details themselves.
78 %
Haunting yet exciting

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