Blondes, ‘Swisher’ – Album Review
Blondes have steadily worked their way into dance music’s inner circle over the course of their short, three-year career.
It’s an understatement to say the Brooklyn duo of Sam Haar and Zach Steinman have kept busy since releasing the psychedelic, disco-leaning basement-dweller house of ‘Touched,’ their excellent 2010 debut EP for Merok Records. Following the EP, Blondes signed to experimental stalwart Rvng Intl. and released a number of singles that culminated into last year’s eponymous full-length.
‘Blondes’ contained a whole second disc of remixes by artists like Andy Stott and John Roberts, and if the group's music wasn't quite on par with that of their guest collaborators, it was testament to their standing in the dance music world.
Blondes’ latest, ‘Swisher,’ is a different story. Even if the record doesn’t exactly wow or do anything incredibly new, the duo are producing traditional, minimal-leaning deep house that’s intelligent, substantial and very much their own. It’s a sound that Blondes have seemingly been chasing since they formed, and it's clear they have no interest in the outsider electronic or R&B- and hip-hop-tinged sounds of their American compatriots. Instead, they look across the pond to Britain and Germany (or to the Midwest) for inspiration.
‘Swisher’ plays a fiercely textual game. There’s a watery, Border Community-esque ambience to much of the album, but Blondes tie it down with rough-hewn dub sonics and spindly, propulsive club rhythms. ‘Swisher’ has a busy intricacy and tectonic subtlety that, at times, can be downright stunning. The middle of ‘Bora Bora’ smoothly settles around a ricocheting staccato synth polyrhythm that’s impossible not to move to. The track climaxes as the kick drum drops out and back in again, and it's actually kind of a bummer when the track fades out after eight minutes. You can imagine an entire hour-long set derived from the song’s DNA.
The rest of ‘Swisher’ is much the same, filled with similar nooks and crannies and subtle peaks and valleys, all colored by Blondes’ cosmic bent. ‘Andrew’ is another panoramic wonder, with its lush, nebula-colored synth loops and foamy sea-spray melodies, while the hot-wired ‘Rei’ plateaus with a massive, submerged vocal sample.
‘Swisher’ is an easy record to get lost in, and it helps that the duo is careful never to repeat themselves. ‘Clasp’ is a rattling batting cage of drum sounds, while the title track is a deluge of static. 'Elise,' meanwhile, features a pearly disco bass hook. And the album darts between all of dance music’s major epicenters -- Detroit, Berlin, London -- like an eager child with a few new toys.
There’s a depth and confidence to ‘Swisher’ that their previous material only hinted at. It’s obvious Haar and Steinman have been brushing up on their deep house lore, strengthening their ground game in order to extend their reach. And that tireless work ethic pays off: ‘Swisher’ certainly qualifies as the duo’s strongest album to date.