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Ada - Blondie

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Artist: Ada

Album: Blondie

Label: Areal

Review date: Dec. 9, 2004

Ada is the ingénue of the Areal label, the populist amongst the blastic sonics of the rest of the roster. Where acts like Basteroid favor fuzzy, granulated textures, beats that puncture the eardrum like feet through floorboards, and thick, reamy midrange, Ada’s music is sensualized and playful, riding on air, topping the treble with micro-managed motifs. On Blondie, Ada’s debut album, the artist manages to précis most all that’s been individual about her previous recordings (three singles and a few appearances on compilations) while opening a few new windows, displaying a wider scope of aesthetic exploration.

One of the keys to Ada’s productions is a noise that’s fascinatingly dichotomous: intensely trebly flares that burst out of her songs like sparks from a metal-works. They’re most evident on her single from early 2004, “Lovelace” – that track doesn’t appear here, but you can hear those impossibly gorgeous textures latticed all through the opening tracks, scoring “The Red Shoes” with a tension that scratches through the simple, euphoric keyboard fill wandering through the song’s mainframe. It’s simultaneously treble-harsh on the ear yet completely engorged and enraptured, a silver thread driven between the ears, an addictive buzz through the body. Instead of sounding “greyscale,” like so much minimal techno, this is electric blue, sharp reflective silver, and sun-glow gold. Other highlights on Blondie privilege techno’s mantra-motoric but fill the details in luminous shades, with “Les Danseuses” as Ada’s most typical production here, sounding like a consummate display of the kind of minimal house built on labels like Substatic.

Blondie does lose its momentum twice. If the album’s opening builds a head of steam, then “Who Pays the Bills,” dropped midway through the disc, lets it all dissipate in an ungainly manner. Much like Robag Wruhme’s “K.T.B.” (a distressingly limp letdown dropped near the end of Wuzzlebud *KK*), “Who Pays the Bills” is a ham-fisted attempt at playful down-tempo, a mismanaged blues, with Carolin Bausam’s vocals sour and thin like an uninspired Billie Holiday, soberly sucking a slice of lemon. Her attempts at playing the diminutive heartbreaker are as uninspired as Ada’s production, full of clumsy noise and a spasmodic bass line as funky as a metal spine. The heralded cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” is undeniably lovely – vaporous trails of synth-swirl wrapping around Ada’s devotional vocal like huge, wind-billowed sheets of taffeta and velvet – but, coupled with “Cool My Fire,” it’s a weak finishing gambit.

In answer to that perpetual question – if dance music is a genre dictated by the 12”, is there any point in hoping for great dance music albums? – well, Blondie does lose its way via misfired ideas and a bit of clumsy execution. Blondie proves that those naysayers do have a point – there’s nothing here quite as ecstatic or revelatory as “…and more” or “Luckycharm,” nothing as multi-faceted and beautiful as the magnesium flare sound and structural wormholes of “Lovelace.” But, much like this year’s albums from Michael Mayer, Superpitcher and Robag Wruhme, Ada’s debut is another step in a trajectory. Like those albums, it opens out space for the artist to explore on subsequent releases, and while Blondie is far from “definitive,” whoever said that definition should be the over-arching pursuit of music? Blondie’s core – five songs that rank with the best on the Areal label – are so brilliant precisely because they remain partly undefinable.

By Jon Dale

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