The Shacklewell Arms is rammed, all to see two guys from NYC play ‘Hipster House’, as if that means anything. Sam Harr and Zach Steinman stand beneath a low arch. Keys, electronics and an array of delay pedals don’t mark them out as different from a hundred other electronic beatsmiths. But their brand of extended and warped house subtly creeps up on you before drowning you in molasses. Blanketed in light from heated oils on projectors, this psychedelic visual throwback to ‘70s lavalamps is kind of apt for the duo, like a more beat-inclined Tangerine Dream for the 21st century.
We’re getting old. We’re not the young men we used to be, and we now have a growing appreciation for things that take their time. AlongsideWhere You Go I Go Too by Lindstrøm, Blondes’ early releases gave welcome emphasis to a feeling of patience in dance music. While plenty of ‘electronic’ music is slow, intricate, deliberate and more suited to headphones and thoughtful appreciation, very little would also expect you to dance to it in a club. Blondes, though, are just as happy for their music to soundtrack a drunken party or attempt to achieve a sense of oneness through ecstatic state trances – Sufi style.
Meditative states or not, tonight people sway and twirl. People dance. The music is full-bodied, this won’t soundtrack your bikram yoga class. Blondes deliver their own kind of maximalism, not in the Hudson Mohawke sense. This isn’t the sound of every idea tumbling out of their heads. Rather, each element builds, unfolds deliberately, intricately working beneath your skin; slowly filling the room, filling your ears and filling your brain.
Tonight they ‘launch’ their debut eponymous full length. In this day of instantaneous digital downloads, they have worked hard to deliver on the concept of ‘duality’ (they are a pair, the tracks are in pairs, the album is paired with a batch of remixes). They play live electronics rather than mixing, but when we spoke to them they were excited about an idea of physicality to music that is in danger of being lost: the idea thatWater/Wine, Amber/Gold, Lover/Hater, Business/Pleasure could all be pressed on either side of a twelve inch, flipped both physically and thematically. You know that feeling when you open your eyes and it’s only then that you realise you have no idea you’ve had them closed? That is Blondes, and that is an ecstatic state.
This article first appeared in CRACK Magazine on 28 February 2012.