According to astrology, a blood moon — the colloquial name for a total lunar eclipse — symbolizes change and new discovery within oneself. Venus, on the other hand, is the planet governing love and passion.
At the intersection of these two elements lies Kali Uchis’ newest album, “Red Moon In Venus,” which explores the ever-shifting nature of desire and sensuality through its sultry R&B textures. The album brilliantly and subtly expands upon Uchis’ earlier work, distilling her sound into its purest form yet.
The 25-second intro sets the tone, with Uchis’ voice declaring love over the phone supported by wide electric piano chords before dropping into “I Wish you Roses.” Heavy bass and drums build a thick bed of low end over which Uchis’ double-tracked vocals rest, punctuated by laid-back guitar lines.
The instrumentation builds minimally but effectively, adding countermelodies and rhythmic figures on synths. Without major changes to the three-chord form, the fear is that the listener will grow bored, but the level of intensity varies enough to keep the tune engaging throughout.
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“All Mine” features similar production techniques. Punchy bass is the prominent voice and is accentuated by drums and occasional backing vocals. For as sparse as the instrumentation is, the texture feels remarkably filled out.
Like “I Wish you Roses,” this track has a repeating form with little harmonic variation. It arguably toes the line even more, but tasteful drum fills and stop times add some spontaneity. Uchis’ silky vocals revel in her partner, giving the tune a heavy feeling of longing and devotion.
It’s always a joy to see an artists’ previous work shine through as an inspiration. “Red Moon In Venus” is steeped in a combination of the sounds of Uchis’ first two studio albums.
“Isolation” established her contemporary R&B sound with touches of hip-hop, influenced by the likes of Amy Winehouse and Tyler, The Creator. “Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)” shows more of her Colombian roots, with heavy influences from Latin American and Spanish styles of music.
“Red Moon in Venus” expertly weaves these sounds together and incorporates a consistent mellowness that her first two works lacked. This is clear on “Como Te Quiero Yo.” It builds itself from reverberating bass and drums with backing vocals providing harmony.
The chorus is accented with distorted guitar that seems somewhat out of place among the other backing instruments, but it works to punctuate the passion of the tune. The harmony and production here are hugely reminiscent of “Sin Miedo,” while the melody and composition call back to “Isolation.”
“Moonlight” turns up the groove, taking a slightly quicker tempo and putting a wah effect on the bass that makes it stand out and gives it extra pop. Driving drumbeats, backing vocals and occasional wind chimes add interest, but the main beat is driven by the bass.
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The theme of love which pervades this album is strong here. Uchis sings about the comfort of looking nice and going out with a trusted partner, her easy, breathy vocals tying together the sensual texture.
It ends with “Happy Now” which diverges from the rest of the album in sound. Where other tracks were aggressively laid-back, more active drums make “Happy Now” feel more upbeat. Washy electric pianos fill the space and the bass is much more understated than previously.
The harmonic and rhythmic texture changes completely for the lengthy outro. The drums —which had earlier been the main driving beat behind this track — drop out, leaving vocals and electric piano to carry the song home. It’s abrupt, but it doesn’t feel undeserved by any means.
“Red Moon In Venus” is an album that knows exactly what it’s about. It’s wonderfully produced, with wide, echoey textures that carry a consistent sonic through-line without becoming repetitive or stale. These provide the perfect backing for the ardent, smooth vocals, which together infuse each song with feelings of desire and devotion in eager harmony.