Review of Blouse Album by Blouse

As the saying goes, "Everything comes gradually at its appointed hour", and in the case of Portland based trio Blouse, their existence owes more to the doctrine of fate than any pre-ordained manifesto. Initially conceived eighteen months ago by art school graduates Charlie Hilton and Patrick Adams, their earliest sketches amounting to little more than bedsit demos and home recordings. It was only after meeting Unknown Mortal Orchestra bass player Jacob Portrait a while later that the blueprint for what makes up their self-titled debut was set in stone.

Blouse Blouse Album

Recorded in a 6,000 square foot warehouse on the north side of Portland, 'Blouse' is a combination of silky sounds, layered effects and icily haunting vocals that draws comparison with a plethora of artists stretching back three decades and more. While its fair to say America's flourishing independent scene has long harboured a regard for 1980s Britain and the pastoral sounds of its underground, Blouse take those ideas a step further without compromising either their identity or direction.

Clocking in at just over half an hour in total, the ten tracks, which 'Blouse' is comprised of, suggest their original vision of Blouse as a project rather than bonafide "band" may need rethinking after all. Displaying a buoyant consistency throughout, Hilton's often desolate vocal combined with the array of musical expertise proffered by Adams and Portrait, who contribute guitars, keyboards, bass and drums between them as well as the latter's tried and trusted production methods.

Opener 'Firestarter' mixes aquatic synths with crystalline guitars and crashing percussion, Hilton's voice mirroring that of The Fat Tulips Sheggi Clarkson or The Pop Guns Wendy Morgan. Again not a million miles away in style from Brooklyn's Selebrities or New Orleans outfit Kindest Lines albeit employing a more lavish production, Blouse operate in a time tunnel that begins in CBGBs circa 1978 and ends with the present. 'Time Travel' echoes 'Seventeen Seconds' era Cure musically, its key lyric stating "I was in the future yesterday".

While the gothic strains of 'They Always Fly Away' and skewered synthesisers on 'Videotapes' deliver Blouse into more subtle and refined territories, the pulsating backbeat that drives lead single 'Into Black' shows them in a poppier, if slightly sinister light. The one time they do stray close to the bone of pastiche; 'Roses' jaywalking haphazardly along a path Propaganda and The Passions closed off over a quarter of a century ago, ends up being little more than a minor blip. By the time haunting echo-laden drifter 'Ghost Dreams' and operatic death disco 'Fountain In Rewind' succinctly wrap up 'Blouse', Hilton's earlier assertion about every day dalliances with the future seems a distinct possibility. Here's hoping "Project Blouse" stick around for album number two.


Dom Gourlay

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