After a taste of stardom in the late ’80s, The Church crumbled a bit. By the end of a rocky ’90s, the band settled into a prolific groove, one that continues to this day. The mellow pace of its latest, Untitled #23, is set by the vagabond’s rumination “Cobalt Blue,” and it continues throughout: It’s as if the band decided that it doesn’t need to do everything—it can simply luxuriate in one lushly elongated fever dream. Rich harmonies, cello, harp, and Mellotron feed the mood, complementing the spectral guitar figures that are the band’s specialty. The only breaks in the trance are the desperately pounding “Space Saviour” and the blustery “Anchorage.” The centerpiece, “On Angel Street,” is a spare, hypnotic wonder, sketching out a picture of dead love. Steve Kilbey’s romantic, mystical lyrics blend well with the sad rasp of his voice, even when he leans too hard on the mythology in “Sunken Sun.” Minor quibbles aside, Untitled #23 finds The Church doling out sonic pleasures with masterful restraint.
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