This debut eponymously titled set from Brooklyn duo Blondes is not a typical album by any means; depending on how much time you invest in the release schedule of RVNG Intl, it’s likely you will approach Blondes with varying degrees of familiarity.
Less an album, more a collection of Blondes productions at their hypnotic best, the majority of Blondes is formed from a series of three loudly pressed twelve inches released intermittently throughout the course of 2011 which deal with themes of duality. However, given that these records were released in only limited physical quantities and largely sold out soon after release, the majority of people who will be buying Blondes are likely to have only been exposed to the intoxicating, widescreen excursions through sounds and emotions in the form of DJ mixes – be it podcasts or physically in clubs – or during performances from Blondes themselves.
It could be argued that hearing Blondes on a twelve inch cut loud at 45prm by Berlin based mastering experts Dubplates & Mastering is the ideal way to soak in all the details of a Blondes production. However there is a delicious sensation to offering yourself up completely, and letting all eight tracks consume your senses on an infinite loop. Furthermore, the thematic nature of the tracks has always been loose at best and there’s never a feeling that the tracks next to each other jar at your membranes.
The aforementioned “Lover” is the starting point for the album and still retains the capacity to captivate that it did to this writer upon 12” release early last year. Along with “Hater”, its conceptual counterpart, “Lover” demonstrated with devastating effect how Blondes had developed on the promise shown on their 2010 EP Touched. Listen to “Lover” and marvel at how the somewhat linear nature of their production on that release for Merok had been replaced, even consumed, by a gloriously thick and unpredictable approach. There’s a massive thrill to the way a well chosen, tribalistic snatch of Meredith Monk’s “Rally” battles for the majority of the seven minutes with a perma billowing array of euphoric textures. It’s still totally jaw dropping after dozens of listens so the prospect of hearing it with virgin ears is a wholly envious one.
RVNG Intl boss Matt Werth revealed that Blondes and the label had agreed on the idea of the series after hearing just those first two tracks, and the chance to listen to all eight in chronological order does reveal a nice, gradual change in pace and mood by the time the sombre tones of “Gold” and “Amber” arrive – the latter fizzing, beatless excursion seems a fitting way to end such a twisting rhythmic journey. These tracks are reward enough for those who’ve willingly followed and documented the Blondes musical journey throughout 2011, offering two further thematic explorations from the duo.
It has been the collection of accompanying remixes that has given this writer most joy however, and the ten artists involved are near perfect choices to tease out new musical directions from the source material. They also demonstrate the obvious close bond between artist and label, with the remixers chosen in tandem by Blondes, RVNG and artist managers This Is Music and described by Werth as feeling “like a family affair on paper and in the air.” It’s an illustrious collection sandwiching well known but well chosen producers such as JD Twitch, Traxx and John Roberts between delightful curveballs in Andy Stott and Dungeon Acid and close allies like Teengirl Fantasy and Laurel Halo. This varied approach pays off tenfold, with a stunningly diverse array of remixes that variously borrow and discard elements of the source material with equal aplomb.
Given how much influence the music of Andy Stott has exerted on the ears of the Juno Plus editorial in the past twelve months any attempts to listen to the remix CD in the order laid out were gleefully discarded to immerse fully in the Modern Love producer’s take on “Pleasure”. The resultant remix proves to be just as deliciously good as you’d hope, with mere strands of the source material struggling to escape the all encompassing claustrophobia of Stott’s highly corroded, densely packed production that constantly threatens to collapse under its own weight. Those glorious final few seconds towards where a snatch of Blondes breaks free before falling into the chasm of nothingness should illicit the willingness to immediately seek out the “repeat” button in all.
This is by no means the only highlight of the remix CD however, and those seeking material more appropriate for the communal space of the sweaty dancefloor will delight in the efforts from JD Twitch, Dungeon Acid, Bicep and SFV Acid. It’s the lesser heralded Irish duo Bicep who perhaps succeed most, turning the gently building “Water” on its head and twisting it inside out into a heavily tape saturated ode to how they are increasingly spending their weekends; dictating the rhythmic movements of limb and muscle with the soul grasping euphoria of a remix deftly lifted by a well placed vocal sample.
Amidst the sweat drenched cacophony of these moments there are gentler, but no less impressive or immersive remixes – see Teengirl Fantasy’s all too short rendition of “Wine”, which breaks down all the original’s shuddering elements to focus on one particular, heavenly refrain. Furthermore, the recent R&S signees surround it in an expansive, warm, gloopy gloss, demonstrated best by the gently glowering piano refrain that appears midway. And then there is the final act, Rene Hell of Type Records perfectly chosen to reinterpret the crackling soundscapes of “Amber” as a heart wrenching orchestral piece which is nothing less than stunning.
1. Lover (A JD Twitch Optimo Mix)
2. Lover (Dungeon Acid Remix)
3. Hater (SFV Acid’s Encino Oaks Remix)
4. Business (John Roberts Remix)
5. Pleasure (Andy Stott Remix)
6. Wine (Teengirl Fantasy Remix)
7. Water (Bicep Remix)
8. Gold (One Blonde Strange Idea by Traxx)
9. Gold (Laurel Halo Chains Remix)
10. Amber (Variation in Cm by Rene Hell)