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Blondes - Touched

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Artist: Blondes

Album: Touched

Label: Merok

Review date: Aug. 16, 2010

The first I’d heard of Blondes came from the e-mail that Dusted editor Otis Hart sent tipping me to this debut EP. So, naturally, I immediately typed “Blondes” into Google and was a bit surprised to see the duo’s Myspace page at the top of the results — especially with such a generic and potentially NSFW query. Turns out, two of the duo’s mp3s — the syrupy “Spanish Fly” and 11-minute Göttsching workout “Moondance” — had garnered high praise ‘round the indie blogosphere late last year, even without an official release to tout. I guess a few Pitchfork trackbacks will do wonders for your Google score.

But I know you didn’t come here to read a walkthrough of my pre-review research. What I think is interesting about this whole process lies behind what makes a group like Blondes so equipped for sub-mainstream Internet fame from the start. Are they from Brooklyn? Check. Do they use analog synthesizers with a Kosmische obsession? You bet. Do they mine and muddle musical genres from decades past? Sure they do. On paper, it looks like the formula for this summer’s chillwave hit: a mix of Keenan’s hypnagogia with the blissed-out, vintage vibes that have gained traction in today’s digital "underground."

I’m not trying to write off Blondes based on these blogtastic traits, because Zach Steinman and Sam Haar’s quicksand house jams are quite captivating. With five tracks clocking in around 40 minutes, Touched is a twilight paradise of gooey synth lines and twisted vocal loops slathered atop a patient, 4/4 pulse. It could be considered dance music, but the drifting melodies and 100 BPM tempos are almost too hypnotic for the bump and grind; especially since the duo make a point to distinguish themselves as “instrumentalists” over “producers,” emphasizing the possibilities of performance and improv over meticulous, Ableton-sculpted grooves aimed for the dancefloor.

That distinction is an important one, and is what ultimately makes Blondes feel so refreshingly loose and personal. Opener “You Mean So Much To Me” is like an 1980s pop gem turned elastic, stretching fluidly over drum machine tweaks and driven to climax. They take several cues from Lindstrøm’s space-disco marathons, but condense them into more digestible, diverse pieces, echoing Stellar Om Source‘s synth meditations almost as much as Eskimo records’ interstellar grooves.

The EP’s flaws are there if you look hard enough, but the duo acknowledges the missteps as part of the process, incorporating them as an integral — and disarming — part of their music and identity. I’m curious to see how Blondes would function outside the 100 BPM comfort zone, but Touched is an impressive debut, and one worthy of the pre-release blog buzz. You did good this time, Internet.

By Cole Goins

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