Probably the first thing to know about Blondes is that they have a stated intention of sorts, which is to create a sort of musical incarnation of “ecstatic trance.” They aim to induce such a state in the listener more than they actually want their music to be encapsulated by those two very loaded terms. Their interest in creating semi-improvisational, extended compositions with analogue synthesizers that draw in those who hear them, before absorbing them into a particular wavelength, or way of being, is comparable to Gavin Russom’s work, both with Delia Gonzalez and alone as Black Meteoric Star. This is especially true of “Moondance” and “You Mean So Much to Me,” which also call to mind the cosmic meanderings of Manuel Göttsching, with Ash Ra Tempel, but more importantly the sublime repetitions and variations of “E2-E4.”
But there are no guitars here. And Blondes are definitely playing with a sound palette that calls to mind Balearic disco and house-the keys that chime like the bleeding into one another of sun, sky, and sea, as opposed to the Ibiza-born concept of a unity formed from “pop songs that sound good on pills.” From that perspective, they are not so removed from the Pacifica tunes from a couple years back released by the likes of Windsurf and Hatchback, as well as some of Aeroplane’s druggier, beached-out moments, “Caramellas” for instance. But Blondes have a harder edge to their cosmic travels, the levitating splendor of ocean-colored chords cut with drones and cycling arpeggios that seem to carry with them a submerged but tangible violence. The single mindedness with which they construct their psyched-out jams also both links and separates them from Norwegians like Prins Thomas and Lindstrøm who also find fertile ground in the territory between psychedelic jam sessions and dance music’s throbbing linearity.
Blondes introduction to the internet masses came with “Spanish Fly,” a floating mélange of dreamy textures, joyous chords, and ethereally looped voices ebbing and flowing over a rolling, horizon-bound bassline. While the track certainly feels a part of the others here, it also seems more in tune with the current fascination with soft-rock, synthesizer psychedelia, as practiced by (among countless others) Ariel Pink, Washed Out, Neon Indian, Barcelona’s Delorean, and more cerebrally, Oneohtrix Point Never, who has remixed “Moondance.” Blondes have also dropped a couple of recent remixes, one for HEALTH and, more spectacularly, a cosmic rereading of John Talabot’s afrokraut house stormer, “Sunshine.” The later sees them upping the BPMs and building enough pressure to keep dark rooms shaking into the wee hours.
But with this first EP of their own work, the BPMs stay low, and everything seems calibrated to set off headphone epiphanies rather than communal exhortations to the sun. And as many names as I have dropped in this review, no one is doing quite what Blondes have gotten up to here, promoting a brand of dance/not dance music that celebrates the possibilities of improvising around structures centered on loops evoking euphoria, in a minor key, over a careening four-four thump. With a new EP set to come out on RVNG International (the two tracks, “Hater” and “Lover,” recently appeared on a live studio performance on Beats in Space), they seem set to continue entrancing unexpected listeners with new material and a live show that promises to be happily heavy.
Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
Windsurf – Coastlines
Studio – West Coast