Ada: Blondie

While Areal's Bis Neunzehn collection is distinguished by credible contributions from roster artists like Metope and Konfekt, Ada's three tracks stand out as extra special, with one (“Blindhouse”) even finding its way onto Kompakt's Triple R Mix. Since the Areal release, expectation has been swelling in anticipation of Ada's next move, which brings us to her debut full-length Blondie. Does it live up to the hype? It certainly does, and then some. Solid from beginning to end and exhibiting a deft command of multiple genres, Ada's Blondie is a superb album and inarguably one of the year's top electronic releases.

The album is distinguished by its stylistic breadth—synth-pop, techno, house, ambient, and more—and its terrific flow. For example, even though the dramatic torch of “Cool My Fire” appears on the CD only (the double-12” version includes eight songs to the CD's ten), it's a fitting coda because it emphasizes the song first, specifically Ada's desperate vocals and keyboards, and its minimal beats second, thereby reinforcing Blondie's status as an album project first and foremost. The tech-house treatment “Cool My Fire (I'm Burning)” also mesmerizes with its billowing loops of hiss, keyboard burble, and her feathery, multi-layered vocals. The techno synth-pop opener “Eve” showcases her arranging talents, as it segues from an overture of synth swooshes to robust techno accompanied by a cartoon-like voice loop (“Close your eyes and wet your lips”), eventually reaching a dreamy close of glimmering keyboard melodies, hand drums, and synths. The stylistically similar “Les Danseuses” begins in minimal techno mode, eventually joined by synth swirls and dancing Casio burble. Shifting stylistic gears, “The Red Shoes” is a harder-edged Kompakt-like shuffle with warped synth squeals and arcade bleeps, while “Livedriver” squeezes in a Deep House “Resuscitation” chant amongst its techno beats; the song also borrows the vocal melody from Eurythmics' “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This” for Ada 's soulful, echo-laden singing.

Other songs move farther afield, like the Goth-blues shuffle “Who Pays The Bills” featuring Carolin Bausum's skanky vocal and raunchy choruses of multi-layered guitar noise. “Our Love Never Dies,” a marvel of construction, is even more unusual. Blurping electronics, croaking bass lines, and snare thwacks give the track a hard techno edge; eventually, layers of synth bleeps and whirrs accumulate until, by song's disorientating end, you'll think you're trapped within an asteroid belt of violently careening meteors. The penultimate song's symphonic intro recalls “Mysteries Of Love” (Badalamenti/Lynch) but it's soon revealed to be an equally inspired cover choice: Yeah Yeah Yeahs' “Maps,” with an affectingly silky vocal from Ada couched in chiming synths. And while that's a major highlight, even better is the album peak “Each And Everyone (Blindhouse–Mix)” which opens in billowing Basic Channel mode before morphing into a heavenly, trance-inducing groove of skipping beats and lush harpsichord tinkles. Of course the “Blindhouse” core of the song isn't new but it's now deepened by the deliciously forlorn quality of the languorous singing (not surprising given the lyrics come from Everything But The Girl) and a vocal melody so mournful it's both heartbreaking and transcendent.

It's worth repeating that Blondie is a bona fide album as opposed to a collection of dance tracks. Oh sure, there are dance elements galore and one could easily imagine how the songs might be transfigured for a club setting but, on disc, occasional moments of booming 4/4 are judiciously woven into the structure of a given track. Put simply, the ten pieces are fully developed compositions, each one a meticulously crafted and arranged mini-symphony. While her previous Areal releases stood out from the throng, Blondie clearly takes Ada to a higher level.

November 2004