2 The Trickster
3 Hidden Villa, Florence 1453
4 Ares & Hermes
5 To Touch The Milky Way
6 So Tired Of Our History
7 The Matchmaker
8 I’m The One Who Loses
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Information in English here. Click to order the Cleft Serpent CDs.
CD in 4-panel digipak with 12-page booklet.
LP on 140-gram Galaxy-swirl black & beer vinyl, includes full-color 4-page lyric book. Limited Edition of 500.
NeoClassical darkwave with seductive mournful string, electronics & voice on 8 stories of loss, longing and doomed love.
The Cleft Serpent is an elegant, heartfelt, and tragic torch song to humanity. A deeply personal tale cast on an almost cosmic scale, the album is a mature and fascinating musing on love, death and desire. The eight gothic neoclassical tracks evoke a sense of earthly entanglement, taking the listener through interconnected pieces charged with emotional honesty. A dark and beautiful work, it’s the 13th from Black Tape For A Blue Girl, and the first for vocalist Jon DeRosa and cellist Henrik Meierkord, joining the electronics of songwriter Sam Rosenthal.
We are introduced to a world-weary, eternal, devil-like figure — almost a narrator, almost a protagonist — who shape-shifts across the album’s multiple eras and locales, guiding the listener through stories of loss, longing and doomed love. Far from the proud and defiant Lucifer we find in Milton and Blake, he’s a cursed figure, achingly self-aware, fated to inflict pain, yet weary of pain and destruction; he’s bound to the one he loves yet is driven to destroy.
DeRosa’s earthy, touching vocals possess an inner strength giving the lyrics a passionate honesty, gravity and intensity. This singular performance draws no easy comparisons; it is truly a beast unto itself.
Meierkord’s strings and Rosenthal’s flickering electronics paint somber soundscapes of yearning melodies bound within the orbit of the character’s fractured, chaotic and ultimately disintegrating lives. Never before has Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s strings and electronics been more beautifully and masterfully intertwined.
The Cleft Serpent presents an original and thoughtful gothic torch song to humanity, embracing all of our tragedy, heartache, and loss. It is the perfect album for these times: life, with its longing, ennui and contradiction, is narrowed down to the touching interaction of flawed souls that alight in the scorched dreams of acceptance, transcendence and annihilation.
blacktapeforabluegirl.bandcamp.com for MiniDisc, Cassette or Serpent Shirt
Companion album The Cleft Serpent (Instrumental & Alternate Mixes) available within the 2-pack on this page.
Release date: October 1, 2021
Click to Join, hit send, and I’ll add you to the list. – Sam
Reviews Editor –
From Suffisso Core
In a disastrous historical period like this, Sam Rosenthal’s work becomes a sepulchral testament for an entire generation, grown up with the releases of Projekt Records and with ethereal wave and gothic rock. Three years after To Touch The Milky Way, whose title track is present in a new version enriched by Henrik Meierkord’s cello, Sam Rosenthal releases a record that focuses heavily on Jon DeRosa’s passionate interpretation and displays the absence of female voices, which would have ensured greater variety. In any case, The Cleft Serpent has no voltage drops or fillers, despite the fact that Black Tape For A Blue Girl has been a project that has been going on since 1986. What is disappointing is, if anything, the fact that works of this type must be financed through crowdfunding. ‘Hidden Villa, Florence 1453’ and ‘Ares & Hermes’ prove to be the absolute pinnacles of listening, for their ability to blend minimalist orchestrations, old school darkwave legacies and martial rhythms capable of attracting fans of neo folk. -Lorenzo Becciani
reviews editor –
translated by Niklas Lövgren
Portland native Sam Rosenthal has been releasing music under the name Black Tape For a Blue Girl since 1986. All of us with a penchant for the dark, gloomy and atmospheric have most likely come across the name at some point. He has now returned with his 13th BlackTape album. This time he is joined by cellist Henrik Meierkord (a 482 MHz favorite) and singer Jon DeRosa.
The Cleft Serpent isn’t just the name of the album, it is also the album protagonist. Accompanied by Rosenthal’s shimmering, electronic soundscapes and Meierkord’s ever so haunting strings, he tells stories, through DeRosa, about times gone by and all kinds of suffering. The Cleft Serpent character is some sort of eternal creature. A timeless character and a shapeshifter, doomed to eternally suffer through everything that human beings suffer through. A classic theme fitting for the neo-classical music. Because neo-classical is exactly what it is, mixed with a hearty, yet tasteful, pinch of goth. And the result? A terrifically atmospheric collection of songs and a testament to the fact that Sam Rosenthal still belongs to the upper echelon of gothic songwriters. However, the star of the album is Henrik Meierkord. He (and his cello) adds grace, substance and profundity to everything he appears on and The Cleft Serpent is no exception.
If I were to critique anything, it would be the fact that singer Jon DeRosa sings a little too perfect. Sometimes, his silky smooth and dramatic voice brings to mind the world of musicals. Sometimes, but far from all of the time.
Portland-sonen Sam Rosenthal har släppt musik under namnet Black Tape for a Blue Girl sedan 1986. Alla vi med förkärlek för det mörka, det dunkla och det atmosfäriska har väl någon gång åtminstone stött på namnet. Nu är han tillbaka med det trettonde Black Tape-albumet. Med sig denna gång har han 482-favoriten Henrik Meierkord på cello samt Jon DeRosa på sång.
The Cleft Serpent är inte bara albumtiteln, utan även plattans huvudperson. Till Rosenthals skimrande elektroniska ljudlandskap och Meierkords alltid lika drabbande stråkar berättar han, genom Jon DeRosa, historier om förgången tid och allt vad lidande heter. Karaktären The Cleft Serpent är ett slags evighetsfigur. En tidlös varelse och hamnbytare, dömd att evigt genomlida allt det en människa genomlider. Ett klassiskt tema som anstår den lika (neo-)klassiska musiken. För neoklassiskt är vad det är, utblandat med en rejäl men smakfull nypa goth. Resultatet, då? En makalöst stämningsfull samling och ett bevis på att Rosenthal fortfarande tillhör toppskiktet bland gotiska låtskrivare. Plattans stjärna är emellertid Henrik Meierkord. Han (och hans cello) förgyller, fördjupar och skänker tyngd åt allt han medverkar på och The Cleft Serpent är sannerligen inget undantag.
Ska jag klaga på något är det kanske att Jon DeRosa ibland sjunger lite för bra. Ibland för hans silkeslena och dramatiska stämma tankarna åt musikal. Ibland, men långt ifrån alltid.
Bästa låt: ”So Tired of History” eller möjligen ”The Trickster”
Om ni gillar detta: Henrik Meierkord – Kval
reviews editor –
From Ver Sacrum,Italy.
The eight compositions of The cleft serpent are very uniform, it is in the minimal but elegant style of Rosenthal and is definitely appreciated, by virtue of a delicate chamber melancholy that surrounds it all. Certainly the lovers of the Projekt-style (and of the BTfaBG obviously) will like it, and I am one of them, I listened to it the first time, and I still listen to it today, in the evening when I feel the most predisposed soul, and the unfailing urgency to collect my thoughts, to isolate myself from everything. My favorite: “Hidden Villa, Florence 1453”, also for the title, really magnificent. – DJ Hadrianus
reviews editor –
From Buscadero Magazine, Italy:
Black Tape For A Blue Girl is a musical project set up in 1986 by Sam Rosenthal, founder of that Projekt Records where all the numerous albums of the theme song were released. Always the only permanent member of the line-up of which he is composer and director, in this new The Cleft Serpent his keyboards and electronics are accompanied by strings played and arranged by Henrik Meierkord, while all the vocal parts were handled by the new collaborator Jon DeRosa, who gave a certain unity to all the work, when in many of the past records there was alternation between female and male voices. The Cleft Serpent is a concept album in which a sort of narrator, exhausted and devilish, guides us through various eras, invariably marked by the all-human tendency to sink into tragedy and anguish. Naturally dark, for a band that has always haunted dark scenarios, painting these neo-chamber wave song, often with solemn tones and minimal structures in which emotionality becomes desolate spleen and human pain embodied in poignant lyricism. Those who know the art of this American artist well, in The Cleft Serpent will find the rigor of a lucid and coherent author, capable of adding another shining chapter to a path of rare depth; it goes without saying, not really for everyone. — Lino Brunetti
reviews editor –
A review from Music Map , Italy via Google translate:
It is difficult to establish with certainty whether the ethereal, impalpable, elusive — yet so dense, intense, evocative — music of Black Tape For A Blue Girl is a warm blanket for winter or a door ajar into the abyss.
It is always the same feeling, from the beginnings in 1986 to today.
Enveloping, soft and desolate music, which knows how to probe the innermost recesses of the soul and psyche, supported by introspective, concise, evocative texts; apparently simple, in reality cultured and chiseled like small literary jewels, admirably fitting to the introverted and worthy imagery that they outline.
It is a session of analysis, an incessant excavation that laps, sometimes touching it, the edge of the abyss. Elsewhere, to creep through dense melodramatic mists is instead a diffuse melancholy, never heavy, which hovers like a gentle ghost on diaphanous textures and swooning airs between echoes of David Tibet, Dead Can Dance, Matt Howden, Lycia.
Sam Rosenthal’s creature launches The cleft serpent, the thirteenth album in thirty-six years, an unprecedented formation, entrusting the singing to Jon DeRosa and the cello to Henrik Meierkord, with Sam to reserve for himself — in addition to the writing of the pieces — electronics and synth, defining the contours of an overturned cosmos with its painful, funereal, sinister corollary of pain and perdition, only rarely illuminated by a faint glimmer of redemption.
Painting a Bosch-style world at dusk, between suicidal instincts (sublimated for example in the church aura of “The Trickster”) and gloomy existentialism (the oppressive allegory of “Ares & Hermes”), blurring at times the fleeting border between the decadent cabaret of Marc Almond from Mother Fist, the Scott Walker of the Sixties (“Hidden Villa, Florence, 1453”), or even the Peter Gabriel of the Genesis era (“I’m the one who loses”), suspended on languid atmospheres and on an insurmountable sadness that constitutes its essence, the album draws scenarios of rampant affliction centered on visionary tales of death and desolation, warped from the point of view of a narrator (perhaps a demon, at the same time protagonist and poet).
Free of variations, of a center, of a development, Sam Rosenthal’s music touches upon the paradox: it grows while remaining still. It is immobile, yet it rises dramatically along the harrowing plots of the cello (“To touch the milky way”, already contained in the 2018 album of the same name and re-proposed here in a half-length version, without the long instrumental coda), perched in its corner, bloodless or pompous according to the inspiration of the moment.
Strictly declined in minor tones on the wings of a deep and hypnotic crooning, a piece is staged that modulates iridescent shades of black and gray, with the song that pursues and supports so opulent melodies, but artfully crystallized in their fixity. The circularity of DeRosa’s voice — wrapped like ivy around the canvas of the harmony that supports it — gives the whole an alienating theatricality, overloaded and swollen with pathos as in the seven minutes of “So tired of history,” with Meierkord dominating the ending in ghostly solitude.
What if death is not defeat? Rosenthal wonders.
He already knows the answer, imbued with a topicality as dramatic as it is universal: humans find it hard to sit idly by / always have to do things / atrocities to pass the time / so as not to confront the anxiety of our ambivalence / so as not to confront the anxiety of uncertainty.
He would like to indicate a different way out, but he can only create yet another masterpiece and clearly engrave the last epitaph on the altar of life: fragile tender moments with so much nothingness around them.
That’s all: nothing less, nothing more.
— Manuel Maverna
reviews editor –
A review from Dusted Magazine
Sam Rosenthal has been making music as Black Tape for a Blue Girl for 35 years now, but beyond that constant he’s always been unafraid to completely reconfigure what kind of music that name applies to. With The Cleft Serpent he’s got a brand-new trio (himself on electronics, Aarktica’s Jon De Rosa on vocals, and Henrik Meierkord on cello), a dark and starkly compelling neoclassical bent to the music, and a narrative voiced by De Rosa that follows an immortal narrator through beautiful and wearying centuries of existence. War, love, enmity, revenge, apathy, pathos; there’s an attempt to convey the weight of what all that time would do to a mind and heart, and the graceful sweep of the music at least makes it feel accurate. On the one hand we could never really know, but on the other this kind of story always tells us more about our non-immortal selves, as this one does.
reviews editor –
From Darkroom Magazine
[Original Italian below]
Now in its thirteenth studio-album in 35 years of honored career, Sam Rosenthal’s historic project returns to its loyal public (three years after To Touch The Milky Way) with a renewed and more minimal structure: alongside the American mastermin , this time we find the cellist and experimental musician Henrik Meierkord and the singer Jon DeRosa, the latter known for projects such as Aarktica, Dead Leaves Rising, Pale Horse And Rider and Vlor. With this three-person line-up, BTFABG’s poetic and authentic pathos darkwave is reduced to a minimum, leaving the subtle and dramatic interweaving of synth and strings to be the ideal basis for Jon’s splendid voice, which is well aligned. to the symphonic intimacy expressed in the eight tracks of the album.
The dramatic emphasis is dominant in the initial triptych, but with “Ares & Ermes” the symphonic tones are tinged with epic, while the new version of “To Touch The Milky Way” shines for its characterizing piano turn, an instrument that we will find again in most touching form in the intense and painful final act “I’m The One Who Loses”, in which Jon gives the best of himself. The even more intimate and environmental “So Tired Of Our History” is also doing well, as well as the more airy and luminous “The Matchmaker” which implements percussion, in a work that easily touches the high emotional peaks that have always been within the reach of this extraordinary and long-lived project. The complementary CD, sold separately (500 printed copies), offers a lot of material that will certainly appeal to the completists and the most loyal fans of BTFABG, with all the pieces of the album in instrumental version, two unreleased instrumental ones too (where the plot leans more towards the ambient), three songs from The Cleft Serpent in demo version and three others with a different vocal mix. Obviously the highlight is the album (also available on vinyl), but certainly the most loyal admirers will want to get both works (both released on digipack CD), in order to fully enjoy this umpteenth commendable creative effort for Sam Rosenthal’s creature. -Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi
Giunto al tredicesimo studio-album in 35 anni di onoratissima carriera, lo storico progetto di Sam Rosenthal si ripresenta al proprio affezionato pubblico (tre anni dopo To Touch The Milky Way) con un rinnovato e più minimale assetto: al fianco del mastermind americano, troviamo stavolta il violoncellista e musicista sperimentale Henrik Meierkord ed il cantante Jon DeRosa, quest’ultimo noto per progetti quali Aarktica, Dead Leaves Rising, Pale Horse And Rider e Vlor. Con questa formazione a tre, la darkwave poetica ed intrisa di autentico pathos di BTFABG si riduce ai minimi termini, lasciando che sia il sottile e drammatico intreccio fra synth ed archi a fare da base ideale per la splendida voce di Jon, che ben si allinea all’intimismo sinfonico espresso nelle otto tracce dell’album.
L’enfasi drammatica è dominante nel trittico iniziale, ma con “Ares & Ermes” i toni sinfonici si tingono di epicità, mentre la nuova versione di “To Touch The Milky Way” brilla per il suo caratterizzante giro di piano, strumento che ritroveremo in forma più toccante nell’intenso e sofferto atto finale “I’m The One Who Loses”, in cui Jon dà il meglio di sé. Bene anche l’ancor più intima ed ambientale “So Tired Of Our History”, così come quella più ariosa e luminosa “The Matchmaker” che implementa le percussioni, in un lavoro che tocca agilmente le alte vette emotive da sempre alla portata di questo straordinario e longevo progetto. Il CD complementare, venduto separatamente (500 le copie stampate), offre tanto materiale che di certo farà gola ai completisti ed ai fans più affezionati di BTFABG, con tutti i pezzi dell’album in versione strumentale, due inediti anch’essi strumentali (dove l’intreccio pende più verso l’ambient), tre brani di The Cleft Serpent in versione demo ed altri tre con un mix vocale differente. Ovviamente il pezzo forte è l’album (disponibile anche in vinile), ma di certo gli estimatori più fedeli vorranno procurarsi ambedue i lavori (entrambi editi in CD digipack), onde godere appieno di questo ennesimo sforzo creativo encomiabile per la creatura di Sam Rosenthal. -Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi
reviews editor –
A review from Daggerzine
I first got hip to this band in the 80’s when a pal of mine went to school in Florida and that is where the band was then based (the band being main person Sam Rosenthal… now based in Portland, Oregon). I had lost track of them over the years so was pleasant surprise to see that not only is Rosenthal still active but Sam got the very talented Jon DeRosa to sing on this record (and whose voice is perfect for these dark songs) as well as a Henrik Meierkord on cello. Despite Rosenthal always following his own muse, the band was embraced pretty early on by the goth scene but on The Cleft Serpent, well, it’s hard to categorize what he is doing here. It’s definitely minimal with plenty of keyboard and I don’t believe I hear any percussion on the record (it took me a few listens to realize that). I hear elements of synth pop, dark wave and even classical music and sometimes all of those things at once. DeRosa’s vocals are deep, resonant and haunting while the cello only adds to the whole mystique. I’m guessing from the lyrics that most of the songs are about a doomed relationship. The first couple of songs, the title track and “The Trickster,” perfectly set the scene for what’s to come and by the last three songs, “So Tired of Our History,” “The Matchmaker” and “I’m the One Who Loses” our protagonist is done, finished, through and what you have is a set of gorgeous songs to sift through over and over to find all the pieces of this puzzle. . In the wrong hands songs like these could be eye-rollingly, bad but in the right hands, like Rosenthal’s and his (merry) cast, it sounds oh so right. Misery never sounded so uplifting.
reviews editor –
A review from subjectivisten.nl
The Cleft Serpent
Ever since I started reviewing, the American group Black Tape For A Blue Girl has been there. This group, with one of the most beautiful names in music history, started a little earlier, namely in 1986 and is therefore 35 years old. Only constant member is Projekt label boss Sam Rosenthal (As Lonely As Dave Bowman, Projekt Electronic America, Thanatos, Terrace Of Memories, Revue Noir). Together with an often changing group of musicians, he makes music that falls somewhere between the former 4AD and the now defunct Hyperium — heavenly voices, ambient, wave and some mysterious ingredients. On their thirteenth album The Cleft Serpent, in addition to Sam Rosenthal (electronics), the line-up consists for the first time of vocalist Jon DeRosa (Aarktica, Still, Dead Leaves Rising, Pale Horse and Rider, Pilotram Ensemble, Vlor) and Henrik Meierkord on various string instruments. Perhaps a small occupancy, but with a maximum output. In more than 40 minutes they will perform 8 new songs, or rather stories about loss, longing and doomed love. They interweave neoclassical, wave and ambient in a dreamy and contemplative way, in which the gothic is never very far away. They are sad, but at the same time comforting songs, which embrace you like a black warm blanket. For comparison, you have to put it somewhere between This Mortal Coil, Faith & The Muse, Breathless, Virgin Prunes, Arvo Pärt, Love Spirals Downwards and Brendan Perry. This can be counted as one of the most beautiful Black Tape For A Blue Girl albums. Goosebumps-inducing, probing splendor.
The Cleft Serpent [Instrumental & Alternate Mixes]
I almost wanted to say that I can’t make it more beautiful than this, but next to this new disc there is also the sister album The Cleft Serpent [Instrumental & Alternate Mixes], where the title pretty much indicates what to expect. About then, because here you get another 16 tracks of more than 72 minutes in total. The first 8 tracks consist of the instrumental versions of the mother album, in which the music remains brilliant even without vocals. This is followed by two instrumental bonus tracks, forging a nice weld between ambient and neoclassical, as well as three early instrumental demo versions of the above album. Finally, you get alternative vocal mixes from three of the album tracks. These also shed a different light on the music. It is a wonderful addendum of added value.
reviews editor –
There’s a Black Tape For A Blue Girl article and review in the Herbst•2021 issue of Germany’s Orkus! Magazine. In Europe order the issue at the Orkus shop. Here’s an English translation of the review:
Black Tape for a Blue Girl: The Cleft Serpent
Aspects of themes that dwelled within their previous album To touch the milky way drive this new album; this makes it all the more fitting that an adaptation of the title track which formed the conclusion of the predecessor, found its way into the middle of The Cleft Serpent album. As much as the two characters, Serpent and Trickster, seem bound into a repetitive fate between pain and love, they still display a capacity for introspection. Black Tape for a Blue Girl are not bound or limited in their approach to music. Once again they display their multifacetedness with a unique sound full of character, which seamlessly befits the story’s emotions. Profound lyrics with graceful strings and expressive vocals are deeply moving and captivatingly elegant. The Cleft Serpent is simultaneously universal and personal. Powerful (“Ares & Hermes”) or seized by inevitable exhaustion (“So Tired of Our History”), the coherent sound always narrates with enthralling intensity. Fascinating from the first to the last note, The Cleft Serpent is a rich album that allows for more and more to be revealed and discovered on repeated listening!
reviews editor –
From the Big Takeover
Thank [fill in deity of your choice] for Sam Rosenthal. As songwriter, soundscaper and label owner, he’s kept his band Black Tape For a Blue Girl running for thirty-five years now, enjoying moments of both great renown and borderline obscurity, but never backing down from his vision. Though long associated with the goth scene (a designation he’s embraced, if stood slightly to the side of), in truth BTFABG doesn’t sit comfortably in any chair but one marked “director.” Rosenthal’s aesthetic is personal both in conception and content, staking out his own path regardless of trends or fashion, and always deeply emotional. He creates some of the purest self-expression on the planet.
That’s as true of his latest album The Cleft Serpent as on any of his records. Joined by new bandmates Jon DeRosa on vocals and Henrik Meierkord on cello (is this the first time he’s not had female bandmates?), Rosenthal paints an elegant, if somber, landscape with carefully deployed keyboards and electronics, eschewing percussion. Drawing more – far more – from string quartets, minimalism and art song than the gothic rock and darkwave with which the band is associated, the songs drift like leaves on the surface of a lake – colorful, hypnotic, and once you turn your attention to them you can’t shift it until they float out of sight. That suits the lyrics, which dwell on what sounds like a star-crossed, perhaps even toxic, love – doomed to be shattered, life after life, by the interference of dark forces. “The Trickster” and the title track make it clear that something or someone won’t let these lovers rest, no matter what time period they find themselves in. By the time we get to “So Tired of Our History” and the emotionally depleted “I’m the One Who Loses,” we’re nearly as spiritually exhausted as the protagonists.
This is the kind of music that could become overbearing in the wrong hands, a gloom-soaked ride to nowhere. But Rosenthal always drives his despairing themes with genuine emotional power, never toppling into melodrama or misery porn. The spell is especially potent this time out thanks to the right collaborators – Meierkord’s cello adds ethereal textures that give the music depth, while DeRosa sings everything with a perfect balance of heart-on-sleeve expression and a stately dignity. “Why do we fight and love and die?” he croons matter-of-factly in “To Touch the Milky Way,” clearly already knowing the answer. With these artistic partners, Rosenthal has with The Cleft Serpent created yet another thoughtfully arranged and undeniably heartfelt meditation on the futile search for love, and why it’s worth pursuing anyway.
A limited edition second disk of instrumental versions, demos, outtakes and alternate mixes is also available.
reviews editor –
Note, the first setence of this review is factually incorrect. The themes of The Cleft Serpent have nothing to do with today’s problems.
From Oregon Art Watch:
Just as much of the music released over the past year has been a reaction to our troubled era, the 13th album by darkwave ensemble Black Tape For A Blue Girl feels like a heaving cry over the pile up of global crises weighing on our collective backs. The key to the emotional core of this fantastic recording is the addition of vocalist Jon DeRosa, who brings a shattering level of dramatic fire to Sam Rosenthal’s electronic soundscapes, calling to mind the finest moments of This Mortal Coil and David Sylvian.