In a time when overexposure is the rule, it’s nice to have a project immersed in a whole lot of mystery, for a change. Truth is, little is known from The Weeknd (pronounced “The Weakened”), apart from the fact that they hail from Toronto in Canada and consist of Abel Tesfaye on vocals and producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo. And yet, letting the music speak for itself is more than enough, when said music is this damn good.
Basically, House Of Balloons fuses two worlds to utter perfection: the futuristic, in its digital sounds and leftfield samples (Beach House are cited twice, for example), with the good-old-fashioned r&b and its more traditional songcraft. Oozing a nocturnal and narcotic vibe that is somewhat haunting and a bit frightening, and which reminded us of Burial’s debut, we have minimal songs that are, nevertheless, about the common r&b topics (sex and drugs). But there’s a twist: the approach taken in here is much less comfortable. The sex is all but a cinematic moment, with weird experiences involved (“Even though you don’t know, trust me girl, you wanna be high for this”), while the drugs are definitely not used to celebrate, but rather as another substance used to highlight/escape moments of despair (“Bring the drugs, baby, I can bring my pain”).
In the end, and like distant echoes, the music in House of Balloons builds a very unique and somewhat ghostly atmosphere which, together with its disturbing lyrics, create an incredibly intense experience that is almost the exact opposite of easy-listening. And why only “almost”, you may ask? Because above those skeletons of cold-mechanical sounds, there lies a solitary – and very horny – soul, singing amazing r&b melodies with the smoothest of voices. And this is what takes House of Balloons to a much higher – and sensual – level, making it a seemingly lost classic. Only that, a classic coming from an unknown future with not much hope. (8,5/10)
PS: House Of Balloons can be downloaded for free in The Weeknd’s official site.