With their full-length debut, BLOND:ISH demonstrate just how better suited they are for the singles market.
If you have been on the Kompakt label mailing list for the past few years, you've already heard of BLOND:ISH. The Canadian DJ duo of Anstascia D'Elene Corniere and Vivie-ann Bakos have been releasing a trickle of EPs, singles, and remixes for the past four years, most of which find them leaning heavily on the dance club atmospherics. BLOND:ISH finally make their full length debut with Welcome to the Present, an album that trades all the club beats in for some long-gestating chilled-out electronic music. While stylistic overhauls are rarely a bad thing on their own, BLOND:ISH don't exactly use the album to pull off a compelling switcheroo. The title itself is entirely too timid to reflect the genre's potentials. Isn't electronic music supposed to be propelling us towards the future? At least the image of the peacock on the cover feels appropriate, given how Kompakt's heavy marketing seems to be preceding the duo.
Welcome to the Present is not a bad album. Rather, it's that the music fails to hit where it really counts. "Shy Grass" gets things started with standard fare: a thin-melody, sharp beats, and sound effects. In the course of its six-plus-minute life, it's easy to forget that it's playing. Finding something tangible occurring in "Lucy's Affair" is less artistry-through-ambiguousness and more plain old frustration with all of the pieces floating in a state of near-coalescing. On "Los Pensamientos", it really sounds like they are both just lost -- a foray into the quiet and the abstract for their own sakes.
The appearance of a beat in "Endless Games" is welcome. Not because brisk tempos are better than no tempos at all, it's because the first three tracks demonstrate that BLOND:ISH work better with an anchor than without. After "Endless Games" though, the album's lead single, the same deficiencies return and remain. "Nada Brahma" is heavy on noodling and light on content. Welcome to the Present's second half, despite a few nicely programmed beats ("Inner Jungle" comes to mind), is dominated by a floundering sense of identity. The samples and sound effects are plentiful but prove to be stubbornly vacuous when it comes to assigning character or even an opinion to the tracks at large. Instead of pointing nowhere, all aspects of the music point in opposite directions, leaving the listener feeling like they've been quartered by horses.
In same way that it's a mistake to think that loud guitars and fast tempos mean that a song will automatically "rock", the slowing of tempos, dropping of the dynamics, and the subtle layering of samples and synths can't guarantee a deeper, more contemplative listening experience. Sometimes the surface just doesn't lie. Welcome to the Present isn't slow or boring, and it's certainly not terrible. No, its biggest problem is that it is a 61-minute mismatched jigsaw, deriving its tension from numerous unnervingly out-of-place elements. Unlike other releases from the Kompakt label, this jigsaw can't solve itself no matter how many times you listen to it. In a way, you could say that BLOND:ISH have a genuine achievement on their hands with Welcome to the Present: mellow music that actually agitates.