In Chris’ new studio album, PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE, the journey of mourning loss takes the form of an intensely personal operatic experience that unfolds across the multiverse. The atmospheric musical landscape produced in partnership with synth master super producer Mike Dean is woven with the raw passion and poetic delicacy of a transcendental Charlotte’s Web. This record was born out of a very carefully aligned string of events. In this story, he explores his own personal history of loss in a boldly autobiographical manner, from the ending of a romantic relationship to the tragic loss of his mother. Painfully honest, Red takes the listener on a grand journey that begins with the excruciating anxiety of Paranoia, contemplates the nature of the divine in a multifaceted study of Angels, and comes to the glorious culmination of faith that is poured upon him by True Love. His thespian mastery and philosophical dexterity shine in this ultimate concept album. We have here a statesman of music, pushing the envelope yet again and presenting himself in an “angel upgrade.”
PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE is a departure not only thematically but also sonically from his prior albums; an ambitious work with 20 tracks (like an arm outstretched to the world in full vulnerability). Red takes inspiration from Tony Kushner’s play, Angels in America, having recently used the concept character of Redcar to emulate the ectoplasmic presence of a dying Prior in Wonderland. It is quite joyful to see him accumulate names like different protection charms that both unlock and teach him how much deeper the universe can be.
It is in the meticulous specificity of the songwriting that Chris creates a powerful connection to the listener. We are introduced to the theme of transcending the dark night of pain and paranoia in an epic synthy overture. The piece takes on the form of a divine announcement, by the soothing narration of a being that conflates the mother, the feminine divine, a higher self, and an angel. The voice-over introduces the narrative of being guided by the light, of transmutation, an embodiment of a higher power for the sake of healing: “She came down from above, she came into me…”
Standout track, ‘Tears can be so Soft’ is a watery, mystical rumination on the healing effect of tears. A hypnotic effect is created by ironic orchestration that contrasts a sample of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Feel My Love Inside’ with a recurring atonal motif reminiscent of an eerie Alban Berg piece. Chris chose this dissonance to “create this deep sense of almost womb-like, hypnotic space where the voice could soar in its loneliness.” An interplay between the suffering that motivates tears and the gentle healing effect they can have, creates the complexity that tears deserve. A personal lament opens the piece, “I miss my mom, miss my mother, miss my mother at night, oooh she gave me life”. These intimate lyrics move us to a soothing chorus that invites us to explore our own internal worlds, “tears can be so good for those who dive, let them run on my cheeks!”.
In his own personal poem about the record, Chris reminisces: “I know she is gone. But she has not stopped talking. Never truly. She did take me there. Away, in skies. My world became magical,
pain brought light to my core. I just had to break, cause I could not contain myself inside the limits of before.”
A direct message from Mike Dean saying “I think we should work together, was for Chris, as a musician and producer was one of the best messages he ever received. After deciding it was time to go far from Paris to discover himself in a more profound way, Chris met Mike Dean in Los Angeles in early 2021. They immediately decided to get to work on a new album that would elevate their respective skill sets. One remarkable way they chose to work on this project was to use single takes for the vocals. To create the space for this, Mike set up recording equipment in Chris’ home, where he would record his vocals alone early in the morning. “Still in alpha state, looking for my subconscious to take the wheel, [like a] scream of the soul”. Mike adapted his process to support Chris’ deeply personal work. Chris describes this process, “I wanted songs to be written like in a dream, unadorned and unthought… [I would] discover the lyrics myself when I listened back to my single takes”. Chris draws a parallel between a period of devotion to Archangel Michael and Mike (Michael!) manifesting in his life and career, a “great musician and visionary that could elevate my work…the meeting created sparkles!”
On the captivating lead track ‘To be honest,’ Red recalls in exquisite detail: “Mike takes his guitar, I remember the glorious end he decided to gift me on this song. I remember the track soaring. He often makes you feel like you’re in a spaceship about to take off when he turns on the subs and plays his keyboards and guitars. He’s just blessed with the feeling.” ‘Track ten’ they wrote together in the same condensed energy. Chris brought Mike a sample of Emerson Lake and Palmer, he takes the Triton. The ride was sweet, “I never wrote music like that before. I can feel something, inside my voice, roaring.”
Another track in this vein, ‘Angels Crying in My Bed’ adds a brilliant ethereal dimension to the contemplation of True Love. The track begins with a deep confidently restrained bassline that patiently introduces a silky angelic melody. The counterpoint that emerges echoes that of the soothing laments of wounded feminine ‘angels’ set against the violent truth of their pathos, historic violence inflicted upon them by men, “goddesses worn out by unhealed soldiers.” The track comes to a larger-than-life climax as Madonna, who has publicly expressed admiration for Chris’ oeuvre in the past, makes a surprise appearance as an abstracted A.I. angelic being. Madonna speaks her Truth, speaking of the importance of revealing one’s true self for the sake of True Love. The music fades out as the narration comes to an end as if we encounter the mother of the Machines in The Matrix. ‘Angels Crying in my Bed’ is polysemic high art, infusing complex philosophical meaning into a song that will connect with wider audiences.
Madonna is featured on the album in a non-traditional manner. Chris Redcar integrated Madonna’s rich multi-faceted legacy as an integral part of the dramaturgy. “I explained to her that I wanted her to be the ‘One Big Eye’, sending her lines to read instead of choruses to sing, appealing to the actress in her. She delivered wonderfully, embodying every word with her wonderful ambivalence. This very classic iconic Madonna speaking voice becomes as multi-faceted as she is. Suffused in our consciousness, taking many forms and roles, from a motherly figure to a dominatrix.” The One Big Eye, perhaps best understood as an analog for True Love,
Consciousness, and God, makes poetic appearances in two other tracks as well, ‘I Met an Angel’ and ‘Lick the Light Out.’ In both tracks, Chris associates the Madonna character with her own mother’s soul. “[In Lick the Light Out] I pictured her appearing and speaking from inside my lungs, and then swirling up from them, as if the angel of my mother was trapped inside my ribs, a voice of consciousness, and her tearing apart from me was transformative, allowing myself to become whole, my Truth.” There is an added layer of significance to this One Big Eye character when one remembers that Madonna lost her own mother at a young age, too. We are reminded again that this album is about heartbreak, the many dimensions of mourning and loss.
On the topic of collaborators, Chris also features rapper/electropop artist 070 Shake. The track is more upbeat than most of the other album tracks, driven by a heartbeat rhythm, a fluttery synth line and a gradually expansive bassline. Shake’s vocals come in about midway through the song, her section bookended by Chris’s romantic chorus “Angel of light, take me higher, make me forget my mother with your dark brown eyes staring at me, with your dark eyes staring at me.”
070 Shake is also featured on the erotically indulgent track, ‘Let Me Touch You Once.’ Chris sings in an orgasmic style that modulates in leaps between notes, Shake’s lyrics demarcated throughout by deep breaths and sensual ad-libs. We hear Chris’ famous humor in this track in an especially naughty light.
And while Chris delved into fruitful new collaborations for this latest album, there remain layers of the music fans and critics have admired for years. In the track ‘Marvin Descending,’ we have what Chris calls his “most collaborative work to date.” Originally begun with Ash Workman, a producer he worked with in the past (Chaleur humaine and La vita Nuova), the orchestral track evolved over time with the stamps of numerous collaborators. Mike Dean introduced Chris to his neighbor and friend, Joseph Bishara, a prominent horror music film composer (Insidious, Annabelle, The Conjuring), and Chris had the gut instinct to have him do strings for the track. He remarks that part of his motivation was, quite simply, the poetry of Joseph’s name being the same as the character Chris created for his Global Citizen performance in 2021, ‘Joseph the Priest.’ Joseph also did strings for several of the other tracks.
This record is an homage to what poetry can do and a remembrance of the artistic gesture as the one beautiful thing we can do, as humans - a sublimation of life, a vessel for expression thanks to the wonderful act of transmutation that our imagination does, all the time, to everything. Love transmutes through desire and imagination, enchants it whole then deserts it and leaves it dying in the dust. Imagination saves us, constantly, with bridges and visions. Heart, imagination, and art, all protected if we decide so, are fields of constant creation, reinvention, and poetic justice. Here we have a work that has taken a life of its own “like a love letter to the world and the heavens that encapsulate the fever of life”.