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New York duo Blondes released their self-titled debut album last year to much acclaim, it even made number seven on my Top Ten Alternative Releases of 2012 list. That album tapped into influences ranging from Steve Reich’s minimalism, to house music via Cluster kosmiche musique. On “Swisher” the duo take a subtly different direction leaning much harder on more obvious dance beats and sounds.

The album opener has a familiar feel to the first album though the percussion is heavy and grows in intensity as the track climax’s giving way to the techno shuffle of ‘Bora Bora’. The track combines a techno beat complete with distant snare, deep bass drum and insistent hi-hats with busy percussion, a minimal bell-like synth melody and creaky yet metallic synth slivers. Despite its title, alluding to tropical climbs ‘Bora Bora’ is one of the darker tracks that are sprinkled across the album. ‘Andrew’ takes things to a more upbeat and house vibe with it lithe four to the floor beat and sighing female vocal sample. The track’s main melody appears after a couple of minutes suggesting a different emotion, sadness, though the track swings back to a more positive feel with the riser and filter sweep effects that dominate its final minutes.

Next up is ‘Poland’ arguably Blondes best track to date to. It begins with an echoing acid synth bass line and four to the floor bass drum, swiftly followed by chattering, fast hi-hats and a synth arpeggio. Around three minutes in a glassy synth melody and new purposeful blocky synth bass enter giving the track remained purpose. The track continues to grow and oush forward until around six minutes in when everything drops away leaving just the drums, synth bass line and the delayed occasional synth swirl to slow ease the track out. Its followed by the energetic and incredibly percussive ‘Clasp’ (even the synths are percussive) which is another track that has a darken, colder edge than previous Blondes tracks. ‘Rei’ takes the dark edge to its logically conclusion with a punishing almost industrial techno beat playing beneath rushing synth arpeggios and pads that whooshing and bubble up over the top of the beat. Definitely a track that could hold its own in techno Mecca Berghain. The album closes with ‘Elise’ with its fizzing and whirring synths, a four to the floor bass drum (woody, acoustic), a sunrise synth pad and insistent electronic cowbell. Later in the track s synth bass line drops, swiftly followed by a clap, creating a house feel.

Though “Swisher” doesn’t feel as good as Blondes debut track for track and I miss the kosmiche musique touches “Swisher” is a solid collection with a few great highlights (‘Poland’, ‘Clasp’ and ‘Rei’). The duo have both made steps forward towards a new darker direction and shown they can make more conventional dance tracks but maybe lost a little of what made them stand out in the first place.   

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