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Blondes
Blondes Simon Jay Catling , February 14th, 2012 05:36

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So let's not get bogged down in all that stuff - the 'where did it come from?'s, the significance of the bridge contrasted with the socio-politic backdrop of our times, the intricacies, the niche movements of the seventies that are a clear influence, the constant hand-wringing over the authenticity of it all. Ok, so that might be a bit disingenuous. Blondes may well believe that we, the listener, should be putting some thought into this thoroughly good larksome house record. They sample the composer Meredith Monk on opening track 'Lover. Their PR people are at pains to point out that the record – composed of three previous releases and two new tracks – is an exploration of "the concept of duality through a personal lens intensely focused on moving the body." They exhort the values of improvisation, of live instrumentation and, in a recent interview with Dummy, they claimed that they viewed it as an "art project."

Yet in that same interview, they wistfully recalled playing in Ibiza, spoke of passively allowing the beat to drive their creations, and of their willingness to evolve the project into something not necessarily music driven. In doing so, Sam Haar and Zac Steinman hit on the temporary nature of their debut full-length. They need fear not, because it's for precisely that reason that this Blondes debut is something to enjoy. There's no getting bogged down here: from the opening fade in 'Lover,' we're going higher, higher and away…

Blondes is bubblegum, an of-the-moment document whose temporary nature is clearly audible throughout its eight tracks. Its fun is in its simple hypnotism, a Technicolor tumble of programmed loops and live instrumentation, melodies that seem so much to the fore as they're happening but disappear into the ether at the record's finish. For all the flipside titles of each couplet of tracks – 'Lovers' to 'Haters', 'Wine' to 'Water' – Blondes' greatest asset here is constancy, not contrast. Textures are woven well but comfortably, drop downs and crescendos are to be expected but are welcomed with a warm familiarity when they do arrive. We are not being challenged – but do we need to be on a record like this? I don't think so.

The pair do this well. The lush production over Blondes' eight tracks allows for a great deal of texture to be built up within each, with little duels and battles between elements making up a dense whole. They're also canny with their sample deployment. Let's go to that Monk lift - it's deftly used, taken from the composer's acapella composition 'Rally,' and embedded into the music to give the piece a meditative quality. The female chants of the 25 strong collective Monk originally recorded add human texture to the whirr of machine-made constructions behind them. 'Hater' and 'Business' continue in much the same vein, the former operating on more of a subtle ascent than the tracks which came before it, the latter comparatively eager to get right to the crux of the matter. By the time of 'Water,' the sixth track, you're lost – not immersed, because at times this feels like its paddle deep – but there's certainly a consuming force of sorts that drives Blondes on. Live, you imagine, this must be a fucking treat.

It's probably only the second of the new tracks, 'Amber', that offers anything different to what's gone before – potentially good news for those who want something a little tougher to bite into from Blondes. Haar and Steinman opt for a softly-softly approach, allowing high-rising drones and cosmic squiggles to flitter around the track's expansive space. As an epilogue it's a departure from the chapters before it, and it suggests that Haar and Steinman could operate on a different plain, should they so wish. For now though, they seem largely content to hit us with a saccharine shower straight to the hips. Too much of this would be deadening, but for just under an hour it's rather a delight.

jo
Feb 14, 2012 2:26pm

a word about the compilation of remixes that comes with the album would have been nice

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Chal Ravens
Feb 22, 2012 4:45pm

Agree that Blondes are nowhere near as much of an 'art project' as they like to think. Doesn't make them any less ace though!

When I saw them at CAMP last year (playing to about 20 people, inexplicably) I was shocked to find myself actually dancing, alongside a handful of people who probably also thought they'd come down for a good mid-week chinstroke at some analogue synth geekery.

With the right AV budget and a bit of ear-squinting, I thought, they'd almost be in Chemical Brothers festival closing slot territory. That sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Maybe you had to be there.

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