Spirit, the latest record by alt-R&B outfit Rhye, is a lullaby of love that was tenderly crooned, hummed, and whispered into existence. It's also a minimalist piano record, brimming with twinkling keys that shine amid the lush production like stars piercing a pitch black sky.
As most Rhye albums tend to be, Spirit is introspective and serene, cultivating an atmosphere suitable for a pair of lovers lounging in their crumpled bedsheets or sitting on a balcony drinking coffee on an early Sunday morning. In fact, the genesis of the record was Mike Milosh’s morning ritual of playing a baby grand piano belonging to his partner, songwriting muse, and album cover model Geneviève Medow Jenkins. For Milosh, the mesmerizing voice and primary creative mind behind Rhye, it was a meditative, reflective activity that evolved into Spirit. It also spawned the tour he recently completed in early November, just after spending the majority of 2018 on the road in support of Rhye's long-awaited second album, Blood.
While words like patient, gentle, and quiet might be tossed around freely to characterize Milosh, you're unlikely to see those same adjectives deployed to describe the city of Miami.
Rhye is returning on Thursday, December 5 for a show at the North Beach Bandshell as part of Poplife's Art Basel programming. The performance will mark Milosh's third onstage visit to South Florida in the last four years. According to one of New Times' own editors who attended his previous public show at the Ground in February 2018, the Miami crowd was very, well, Miami that night – loud, rude, obnoxious, self-important.
This begs the question: Given how his last go-around with a Miami audience went, why would Rhye come back to perform here so soon?
Simply put, he’s a more mature musician that most.
“The one thing I recall is that it felt more like a bar scenario, like a Friday night out, you know? That kind of vibe,” Milosh says. “A younger version of myself would’ve been freaking out about that on stage, trying to get people to be quiet. I’ve gotten to the point in my career that when people are in that vibe, I try to appreciate that too. Everyone’s got their own feelings about that; I don’t need to control everyone’s experience.”
Speaking with Milosh can feel akin to entering a much-needed therapy session, or a soundproof chamber that shuts out all exterior clatter. His demeanor is calm as he shares his memories of the night in a Zen-like manner.
“I remember that show being more energetic at moments and trying to play more to what felt like a party crowd," he says. "I don’t remember being particularly bothered by it. Oh yeah, it’s a night out. People are partying more. We’ve played plenty of festivals so I’m pretty comfortable with going, screw it, let’s make it more of a rock show, in a weird kind of way.
“The moments where I do try and get people to be quiet and have these special moments, I try to pepper them in throughout the show. Hopefully people are down to listen as well so they get both of the experiences.”
For the time being, his December concert on Miami Beach is the only one he has scheduled for the remainder of 2019, due mostly to the fact Milosh is already “deep in the process” of crafting his next album.
He tells New Times has just fulfilled a longstanding wish to record with the internationally renowned Danish National Girls Choir, who are currently slated to appear on two songs. Even while speaking in his usual reserved tone, it's easy to discern his excitement surrounding the next Rhye project.
“It’s not as melancholic or as quaint as Spirit," he says. "I feel that I was intentionally trying to be very quaint with Spirit – close-miking the piano but also having four other mics to capture all the creaks and the sounds of the pedals and stuff like that. This is going back to a more polished production technique with this record because there are a lot of tracks on a lot of the songs. Even putting the sixty-piece choir on some of the songs, it’s like, okay, How do I put it in there now? It’s a balance between the intimacy and showcasing the voice, but also figuring out how to fit it in the mix because there’s a lot of sonic information there.”
As for when the new album will be complete, Milosh says it will be sooner than later. But, considering he's also in the midst of constructing a proper studio in his new house so he can “work from home again," he’s been generous enough to afford himself some leeway.
“I do have an end date in mind; if I’m going to achieve that end date,” he pauses with a laugh, “It doesn’t totally matter. It’s okay. It’s flexible. I’d like to have it finished by the end of January.”
After the long wait between Rhye's 2013 debut LP Woman and 2018's Blood, it's possible listeners will get to enjoy a new release from Milosh for the third consecutive year in a row. However, he's not afraid of the possibility of burning out. He realized as much during a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park, when his companions remarked that he seems incapable of staying still. He was doing something at all times, including taking long exposure photographs of the moon and possible meteor showers.
“I was thinking about it: am I workaholic? Or do I just enjoy the things that I’m doing?”
Milosh’s love for making music is unburdened by outside stressors, as he has endeavored to remain fully in control of his career and his home life. He has only the humblest of desires, even when it comes to how people respond to his work.
“I do hope that people have these peaceful, beautiful moments with the record," Milosh says of Spirit. "I’ve had a lot of friends with videos of their infant or babies listening to the music and looking calm while they’re hearing it and that’s huge. Like, oh wow... it can calm a small human being.”
This sentiment is an extension of the overall theme of Spirit, and can be found at the heart of much of Rhye’s music.
“[It's] the ideas of being there for your partner and appreciating who they are as opposed to wanting them to be anything other than who they are," Milosh says of the grand, unifying theory animating Rhye. "But it’s not in the lens of trauma or a response to a negative episode. It's more just the calm, loving patience two people should have when they’re traversing life together.”