12 Rounds

CMJ review of My Big Hero

12 Rounds, a quintet led by vocalist Claudia Sarne and instrumentalist Atticus Ross, creates an intense ambiance through its clever use of contradictory musical/lyrical devices. Gritty synthesizer melodies and distorted guitar textures loop around the jazzy bass lines and sluggish breakbeats that anchor the songs, while Sarne’s bluesy, sultry vocals utter unsettling sentiments usually reserved for leather-clad dominatrixes. Most of the tracks on the stunning My Big Hero could easily fit alongside the work of such sonically-stoned beatsmiths as Tricky, Sneaker Pimps and Portishead. But this unit strips the trip-hop sound of its typifying soul and adds a despondent edge that is closer to Polly Jean Harvey on her darkest day.

While “Sunshine” breaks the mold and bounces with unexpected spring, the majority of these 10 tracks creep along at a snail’s pace, tempting listeners with their seductive, come-hither hooks, while petrifying them with its razor-sharp sonic claws. Toeing the line between passion and paranoia, My Big Hero takes post-modern blues down a darker, more sinister alley.

– M. Tye Comer