I had some criticism in my notes for Blondes (a.k.a. Sam Haar and Zach Steinman), the Brooklyn-based DJ/production duo who played at New York’s Poisson Rouge last night. But halfway through one of the notes, I switched directions.
At first, I was a little bored to hear the material from Blondes’ debut self-titled LP rehashed in a live setting. The songs on the record are winding, aimless, dozy, slowly-unfurling house tracks that rarely coalesce into meaty hooks. When Blondes performs them live, Steinman and Haar deconstruct the tunes and use a soundboard of hardware to build them piece-by-piece, like a jam band, which makes the tracks even more abstract and wandering. The songs on Blondes surface throughout the set, familiar but indistinguishable. When they get into the thick of one of the darker ones, I know it’s probably “Wine” or “Hater,” but I can’t tell which—that happens every few minutes.
But even if I’m standing there wishing they would springboard away from the material they released in February and dive headfirst into improvised or fresh territory (which they eventually did), I’m probably the only one. Blondes’ sound palette is beautiful, and it maintains a buoyant energy even at its moodiest moments. It’s probably my fault if I’m standing in the back, taking notes on my phone and trying to trainspot which jangling, reverberating, shimmering house beat is which.
John Talabot’s performance maintained Blondes’ emphasis on producing tracks in real time. The Barcelona-based tunesmith took the stage with fellow Spainard Pional, and together they started recreating the songs from Talabot’s debut album, Fin. Talabot would poke melodies into a whatever device (couldn’t see exactly what kind—probably some type of MPC) while Pional tapped out beats on drum pads, both of them singing.
Talabot was quick to bring out tracks like “Depak Ine” and “Oro Y Sangre,” but he took his time before cracking out Fin‘s lead single, “Destiny.” Although billed as a DJ set, Talabot’s appearance in New York last night was far from it. On top of the fact that Talabot and Pional were conjuring the songs piece by piece, they usually paused between songs to catch a breath, seeming more like a band than a pair of DJs.