The first thing you’ll hear on SISU‘s debut LP is the celebratory chiming of bells. It’s almost holiday-esque, like they’re hailing the arrival of something seasonal that doesn’t come around very often. Then a hollow drum beat shuffles in Sandra Vu’s elegant vibrato, and the bells drop away suddenly, as if they’d never existed. This will happen more than once on Blood Tears: you’ll get the hollow feeling you just missed something. Sounds will appear and disappear in such quick succession, you’ll wonder if you actually really heard them at all.
You may recognize Vu if you put a drum kit in front of her and added some background reverb—her other musical gig is as the drummer of the Dum Dum Girls. But there aren’t many other similarities between the two projects. Here, Vu has shed the omnipresent scuzz of the Dum Dum Girls and SISU’s 2012 EP, Demon Tapes, Vol. 2, now quaffing her work with a glossy sheen.
Following a cinematic dream sequence Counting Stars, Cut Me Off is an ‘80s new wave rebirth scrubbed clean. Vu takes on the Human League and the Cranberries using only an unadorned synth, echoing percussion and her moody croon. Album single, Harpoons, is a Kate Bush-like experiment in vocal progression with Vu stretching her falsetto and dropping it back down to an aggressive monotone in the course of one chorus.
Sharp Teeth, though pushing a higher synth-glitz factor than its album brethren, takes top billing on Blood Tears because it matches Vu’s impressive vocal range with thunderclap percussion. And while you recover from that juxtaposition, the track fades out with a lengthy instrumental of slowing drums and scratchy, acidic guitars. That doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does.
Unlike SISU’s EP, Blood Tears leaves more room for the band to experiment with its sound. Rather than throwing reverb at the problem, Vu and crew try out misty prog-darkness (Let Go), moody pop kisses (Return The Favor) and literal song titles (Electronic). It’s hard to believe there’s not a “Sweat” in the title of Blood Tears, because it’s obvious the band is working hard. Blood Tears is menacing and disconcerting because it’s unpredictable. All you can really be sure of is that these songs are going to stick with you, even if you’re only 10 minutes deep.