Welcome to the Present
After establishing their rule over the 12" format and turning your run-of-the-mill dance EP into a miniature opera in its own right, Blond:ish were bound to come up with a debut full-length at some point, but even so, Welcome to the Present drops as a major surprise. Flexing the psychedelic and spiritual influences that informed their Lovers in Limbo EP (KOM 253EP, 2012), Inward Visions (KOM 268EP, 2013), and Wunderkammer (KOM 308EP, 2014), this material presents itself not so much as the collection of DJ-ready peak-time bangers that some would've expected, but as what one might admiringly call a total trip. Here, each track is part of a bigger story, accomplishing its role in a vibrant, colorful mix of electronic moods, field recordings, traditional instruments, and polyglot vocals. Things start off in the most unassuming manner, as opener "Shy Grass" lives up to its name and gently introduces a few fleeting chords to what sounds like a recording of casual child banter. The first real bass drum takes its sweet time to hit, and when it does, it does so like the wind caressing your cheek. It's only halfway through lead single "Endless Games" -- itself morphed into a special album-only version -- that the first actual club beat appears. That's not an accident, but a very deliberate aesthetic choice; the result of what seems like the duo's very own alchemic procedure of turning a multitude of disparate folkloric snippets into a blueprint for a unique kind of ambient-infused dancefloor. As the trip continues through the sneaky Rhodes showcase "Nada Brahma," the mysterious electronic fairy tale "Moonvalley," and a slightly adjusted version of vintage hit "Velvet Wave," it suddenly becomes clear that the heat's been rising all along, thanks to the labyrinthine percussion, imploring vocals, and uncanny instrumentation of "Myein Caravan" and the shadowy funk of "Jupiter & Jaguar," all culminating in the powerful, incessant groove of "Inner Jungle." These seething cuts reflect "every road that we have taken to come to this point in time," as the duo explains -- spanning spiritual and physical travels to South America, Mexico, and India. Recording the album in a makeshift studio in Tulum, Mexico, where they have also found a new home, Blond:ish make expert use of the format's greater runtime to build pace and play with release, transgressing the conventions of electronic club music in favor of a mystical tour de force.