Blondes are Sam Haar and Zach Steinman, a Brooklyn-based electronic duo that met while studying composition at Oberlin Music College. Blondes have quite a following, and this reviewer’s reason for delving into their back catalogue followed a conversation with a rather prolific Irish electronic producer who claims he “only listens to Blondes” – sold. Prior releases include the seriously awe – inspiring Touched EP and a series of 12” singles, as well as their 2012 self-titled debut. The duo have been classed as “hipster-house”; perhaps a little debasing considering the brilliance behind their discography to date.
Swisher is their latest opus. Opening with ‘Aeon’, it eases listeners in with its subtle beats and gorgeous arpeggio, almost reminiscent of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works. ‘Bora Bora’ follows; named after the Polynesian island in the Pacific Ocean the feel of the track reflects its title. Its tribal beats are somewhat low in the mix but quite hypnotic, edging the momentum of the album forward. The aptly titled ‘Poland’ trails closely and is one of the stronger tracks on the album. This number feels like a clear-cut tribute to European label Warp in parts, as it is quite reminiscent of Boards of Canada and, more recently, Clark. The title track of the album ‘Swisher’ is one of the colder tracks on the album, not to say that it lacks color; rather, it borders on industrial. Its peaks and troughs of vivid arpeggios, glaring synths and almost abrasive beats make it something you could imagine hearing at a packed out nightclub in Berlin, and definitely something you can envision delighting the masses at the likes of Sonar festival in Barcelona. ‘Elise’ brings the album to a striking conclusion. Its elegant string samples, captivating rhythms and exhilarating pace make it the apex of the album, drawing things to a satisfying close.
If the album falters, it’s only in the sense that tracks ‘Rei’ and ‘Wire’ feel more like fillers and take from the brilliance of the entire picture. Ultimately Swisher is a beautiful listen, a blissful combination of the avant-garde, house and ambient tones; it is subtly abrasive in parts and generally warm, sophisticated and soulful. The album is certainly reminiscent of Boards of Canada and Clark, and there are also hints of Atoms for Peace and even Moderat in parts. This is an LP worth owning. Luckily for Irish listeners, Blondes play Electric Picnic this year – we urge you not to miss out. Niamh Hegarty