Available on: RVNG Intl. LP
After some well-received singles and remixes, as well as their FACT mix from last month, Blondes, the Brooklyn-based duo of Sam Haar and Zach Steinman, have released a self-titled full-length album that, while by no means classic, is an intriguing, occasionally brilliant set.
Blondes is, in fact, more of a collection than an actual album, as it compiles the series of three 12″ singles they released through RVNG Intl. beginning in 2011. The song pairings are evident by their titles: ‘Lover’ and ‘Hater,’ ‘Business’ and ‘Pleasure,’ etc. Along with the tracks from the 12″ series, the album includes two new tracks, ‘Gold’ and ‘Amber,’ both of which are almost completely improvised and recorded in single takes (additionally, the second disc in the 2CD set contains several remixes by several heavy-hitters, including JD Twitch of Optimo, Teengirl Fantasy, Bicep, Traxx, Laurel Halo, and several more.) True to their languid working dynamic, the tracks herein are lengthy and meandering, feeling much more like jams than ordinary songs. Blondes’ is a vision that takes time to unfold, bestowing varying results.
The meandering, incidental quality of their music works alternately in their favor and against them. Over the course of its nearly 10 minutes, ‘Gold,’ one of the two new tracks here, wanders along for a good while, but fails to offer much of anything to hold onto in the end. On the other hand, ‘Wine,’ the most immediate track on the collection, unfolds most casually into a cosmic, danceable track that hits hard, and it’s all the more surprising and graceful given its off-the-cuff quality. A subtler highlight comes in the form of ‘Pleasure,’ which opens with a clicking, winding rhythm and a simple synth line and gradually builds into one of the album’s most rewarding tracks.
Much like fellow Oberlin College alums Teengirl Fantasy, Blondes bring to bear a synthesis of traditional house tropes and more psychedelic, Krautrock-inspired sounds. They’re too contemplative to be a full-on club outfit, but their sound is too insistent to function as mere background music. In any case, they’ve struck a happy medium where the best tracks alone make the entire trip worthwhile.
Depending on where the listener comes from when first hearing this record, Blondes might appear to channel any number of producers either contemporary and classic — early German electronic music, perhaps, or more contemporary producers like Lindstrøm and Gui Boratto. One of the more apt touchstones might be Manuel Göttsching’s airy proto-techno classic E2-E4, the lightness and depth of which is echoed in this record’s peak moments. Judging by their releases thus far, Blondes would seem to have many more transcendent moments in store: the ground floor, as it’s showcased here, certainly has enough greatness to justify jumping on board right now.