Album Reviews

Blondes – Blondes

(RVNG) UK release date: 6 February 2012

Sometimes, no matter how good a piece of music is, it just takes a bit of imagination to make it 10 times better. How much better does Gui Boratto sound if you picture long drives through mountains, and how much more vital do Atari Teenage Riot feel when your mind wanders to the scenes of apocalyptic chaos they paint?

Blondes’ debut album is great on first listen, but it takes on a whole different life when you listen more closely and let your brain follow behind. Brooklyn based house duo Sam Haar and Zach Steinman have brought together their three brilliant double A-side 12″s, along with two new tracks. Opting for what they refer to as “duality”, the tracks are couplets of sorts – Lover/Hater, Business/Pleasure, Wine/Water and, erm, Gold/Amber. But forget the stand-off the opposing titles might suggest – the reality is a series of carefully crafted eight-or-so-minute thematic studies that are as neat and sophisticated as they are adrenalin-packed and euphoric.

Haar and Steinman met at college when they were studying electroacoustic composition and studio art respectively, and their lecturers will be proud. A smooth, seamless blend of synths, sequencers and drum machines form the canvas of their sound, with other-worldly vocals weaved in very occasionally. Like on the album’s opener, Lover. What starts with intense waves that build into a snapping crescendo gives way to a throbbing bass and Meredith Monk’s chant. It starts off upbeat but takes a sinister turn towards the end before giving way to the spikier Hater. Like a dark cloud spitting daggers, the bass is duller and depressive, edged out by a sneering synth that looms like a cartoon baddie, taking over just after the half way point.

It’s not always as brooding, and Pleasure starts off sexy and provocative before becoming playful and flirty, showing a lighter side to the duo. Its partner in crime, Business, is full of relentless buzzing and industrial, robotic noises – a mechanic, repetitive whirl. Album highlight is Water; a restrained, pitter-patter of rippling pools it’s melodic and gentle against Wine’s full-bodied, bouncy excess. The two new tracks are apparently almost entirely improvised and were recorded in one take, and while Gold and Amber don’t have the weight of the EPs, the latter’s crackling static is a spine-tingler.

Unusually there’s also a second disc, full of remixes from the likes of Teengirl Fantasy and Laurel Halo. If you like your music with the psychedelic layers of The Field and subtle atmospherics of Joy Orbison, Blondes have so much to give.

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