Many suspected last year that the three 12-inches were teasers from a forthcoming album and—even if the tracks were never really intended to be collected as such on creation—they certainly sound like they were meant to cohabitate. Each bears the duo's extended, rippling approach to arpeggiated house. Much like acts like Lindstrom, Todd Terje and virtually any artist on International Feel right now, Steinman and Haar revel in slow, heady release, the construction of intersecting layers of melody and texture that play out like there's far too much daylight left to concern themselves with closing out. "Hater," for example, belies that title with its patient layering and withdrawn atmospheres, while "Lover" folds a Meredith Monk sample into a strident bit of deep night electronica. "Wine" is calmer and smoother, a limber vocal-laced Autobahn update for sleepless drives, and its partner "Water" even more refined, an almost neo-classical recline that you could see fitting beautifully in almost any Michael Mayer or Ewan Pearson set of the last ten years.
But it's perhaps in the two new tracks where you hear real growth. Astride a haunting Carpenterian undercurrent, "Gold" follows its steady 4/4 guide through the eerie distant sounds of wood-knocking and several Berlin School melodies in one of the duo's most intricately constructed feats to date. "Amber," however, is the midday glow to "Gold"'s uneasy paranoia. Opening with dim choral samples and a slow, stumbling arpeggiation, the two keep everything in the distance for the album's beautiful ambient conclusion—that almost senseless bass rumble, too soft to feel, the ever-increasing garble of far off noise and hovering pads. There's a sense of impending release and burst; it never arrives, which is the most successful trick played here.
On the remix disc, standouts arrive from where you would have expected it. John Roberts eviscerates "Business" into a tumbling hallucinogenic bit of chopped-up house music—more clamorous than anything from his excellent debut—while Optimo's JD Twitch converts "Lover" into a strobe-lit, and frankly brain-damaged (in the best way), trance anthem. Traxx adds peppery drum-machine blurts to "Gold," resulting in a jerky, demented Chicago cyborg strut, and fellow RVNG Intl signee Laurel Halo twists "Gold" into a bell-laced fantasia very much in line with the atmospheric restraint of her own work. But it's perhaps no surprise that Andy Stott's remake of "Pleasure," which reduces the original to smolders and charred, ashen things, to drone and steady postapocalyptic thump thump thump, before the first recognizable strains of the original stretch up through Stott's murk. It's obviously easy to recommend Blondes to those already familiar with the first six tracks just for the remix disc. However, heard with these two new tracks, the first disc sounds very much like a singularly impressive work that now needs to be consumed—whether for the first or the hundredth time—as a piece. In some ways, it's too bad this wasn't the way these cuts were presented the first time around.