Styles: kosmische, house, idm, edm, minimal techno
Others: Four Tet, Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom, Plastikman, R.Rose, recent Prurient, Andy Stott
Despite my reluctance to use a stupid quote from a middling to decent film, listening to Blondes’ sophomore effort, Swisher, makes me think of the “hide your smiles and cries” approach Training Day’s Jake Hoyt takes to being a cop. The same can be said for the sophisticated, pokerfaced dance music that helmsmen Sam Haar and Zach Steinman have continued to excel at. Swisher dodges the slump by never allowing things to get too euphoric, too dark, or too overwrought. These nine songs may possess some sensuality, but it is in a purely synthetic way. That is to say, I can picture various automatons and appliances bobbing and gyrating to the music much easier than people. It’s not cold exactly, but the human element is dormant, giving the locked-in rhythms a high-walled sort of authority. It’s a good reminder of why it’s fun to get effed up and dance. Because we wanna forget ourselves and be in motion, heavy-limbed gawkers be damned.
Indeed, Blondes, like many before them, are here to represent the ecstatic feeling of being lost in rhythm. While these tracks are straight-laced enough to be somewhat stultifying at first, there is a gradual sensation of infinite grace and intrigue. The feeling is vague, and the one-word titles don’t help much by way of elaboration, but the music is nonetheless satisfying in its opacity. If you were drawn to this outfit on the strength of their dreamy Altered Zones-touted 2009 single “Spanish Fly,” Swisher might be bit of a let down. The density and texturally shifting grace of the beats on that track, however, have only gotten better. “Clasp” for example is a miracle of beat-skewing, in that the song both barely changes and never sits still. It’s like a sprinkler system cascading back and forth, and each time it rises, the colors in the rainbow created have imperceptibly shifted in both hue and arrangement.
“Bora Bora” is another highlight here, sounding like a collection of ricochets in a wind tunnel that periodically gets browned-out before the throbbing 4/4 brings the lights back up to reveal more zipping and pinging and swooping doo-dads than before. The flooded reverb applied to many of the tones is oddly reminiscent of public shower rooms, where sounds and voices take on an amorphous quality, making one almost able to sense how absurd human behavior could seem to others. The personification of this vexation could be applied to the LP’s darkest entry, “Wire.” Its dreary grind is like a mosaic of machine exhaust due to the absorption of a trillion vicious tirades and flailings from impatient, frustrated humans trying and failing to interact with them.
Swisher may hide the “smiles and cries” of the creative forces behind it, but there’s no doubt that it is an earnest communion with labyrinthian technology and centrifugal force. It is one of the better EDM records in recent years due to its well-mired quality, and it feels neither trendy nor throwbacky nor settled. It is alive and humming and ready to take you into custody. Just go with it, youse animals!
02. Bora Bora