To describe Icky Blossoms in one word would be simple: infectious. And while nothing they’re doing in their close-knit hybrid of punk and sexed-up electronica is especially new, they aren’t trying to please anyone other than themselves.
Originally released in 2012, the Tilly And The Wall side project’s self-titled, Dave Sitek-produced album now finally arrives here in the UK and, with their bass-heavy electronic grooves, pop structure and rock ‘n’ roll swagger, it’s surely about to be added to every summer playlist worth listening to.
This is not to demean Icky Blossoms as a throwaway pop act; their work has much more depth than this would suggest, with all three members having been successful in other fields. Derek Pressnall is an acclaimed visual artist, and Nik Fackler is a Spirit award nominated filmmaker; in 2011 they combined with singer Sarah Bohling to form Icky Blossoms.
With the huge success of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories there is bound to be a resurgence in commercial-focused dance music with added depth, and this is exactly what Icky Blossoms are about. But unlike Daft Punk, with their huge soundscapes, huge list of collaborators, and a huge budget to match, Icky Blossoms represent a lo-fi/lo-cost approach pioneered by the forefathers of electronica.
This hybrid of punk and electronica, as well as moments of bubblegum pop and avant-garde, adds a sense of depth to proceedings, but this is achieved in a subtle manner. The repetition of “sex to the devil” on the track of the same name is spellbinding before it morphs into something that begins to haunt the listener without any obvious musical alterations beyond the repetition of a simple phrase. Although the writing credits on all but one of the album’s tracks is given to Pressnall and Fackler, thereby excluding Bohling, it is her mesmerizing vocals that form the basis of the album, and leads to its artistically collaborative success.
Rave culture in Britain no doubt had a huge influence on the three-piece, who are said to have formed having been enchanted by endless nights in clubs, inspired by a desire to programme dance music with instantaneous grooves and depth, which is certainly what they achieve here. The album is infused with doses of the avant-garde and, particularly, experimental soundscapes with which Bohling is able to experiment, both in terms of the pitch of her vocal capabilities but also through various timbres and shades of textural colour. Blossoms are not merely musically interesting, however, with the most catchy song on the album, Babes, also happening to be a (presumably) tongue-in-cheek feminist critique of women who play into being sex objects. As with many great soundscapes, it is complemented by the complex narrative of Bohling as an obsessive mania descends on the piece both musically and lyrically, with the possibility of a killer amidst, with lyrics such as “At the club, a killer babe / Back and forth on the stage / Couldn’t keep my eyes off / That killer babe”.
This allusion to epic proportions, the sublime even, is even more impressive when considering the album’s 10 song, 42 minute length. Some of the tracks are relentless, with a yearning for resolution and calm. Although the state of the human condition is probed extensively by Icky Blossoms, this is only in an attempt to make dance music that really matters. It must therefore be reiterated that, as outlined by Bohling on Heat Lightning several times, that they merely want to “keep on dancing if the lights keep flashing”.