Blond Ambition Capture the Sounds and Noises of LA
Having played for Brooklyn-based band Ex Cops, Brian Harding was familiar with the rhythms of New York, acquainted with the city’s creative vibrations wafting through the asphalt streets and concrete skyscrapers. People from all walks of life come with nothing but dreams of capturing and recreating the city’s tunes and noises, that concoction of melodies that stirs the hearts and skips and swoons the bodies. Yet, Harding wanted more. After finishing tour with Ex Cops in Los Angeles, rather than returning home, he stayed. The west side became his new home, where he made his new creation, Blond Ambition.
Los Angeles, the city of endless possibilities and never-ending new beginnings, where the pioneering spirit lives on forever, perfectly captures the essence of Blond Ambition. Named after the sassy and gutsy audacity of popstar icon Madonna, Harding’s new project seeks to highlight the daring provocativeness of the music legend. It is only fitting then that Harding found LA to be the inspiration mecca for this project. After all, the city channels that energy of conspicuous boldness, in which it is celebrated rather than shamed for calling attention to the self.
That energy exudes through the tracks of Harding’s debut album as Blond Ambition, Slow All Over. Harding takes cues from “world-creation” albums like Josh Homme’s Dessert Sessions and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. It is not surprising that Harding found worldbeat genre music to perfectly encapsulate Los Angeles’ vibes. The genre speaks volume about how the city operates, a city that constantly reinvents itself yet never forgets the essential aspect of its core identity.
The tracks mix house music with folksy influences, such as shakers and bongos (which Harding himself played). Playful, sunny and groovy, “Shasta” mixes tropical, synthesized tunes with peppy background sounds perkily reminiscent of water droplets from kitchen sinks, drawing memories of cheap summer beach rentals where none of the amenities work properly but no one cares because it’s summer. Harding also dabbles with incorporating real-life audio recordings into his tracks, producing an overall sensation of surrealism — like the sudden snapping of fingers to bring back reality. “Speak,” “Dillon” and “Necessary Lover” all display such creative interjections. Meanwhile, “Good News” brings together sounds of the ’80s Downtown scene with elements of R&B. Then there is “F.S.L.” which awakens listeners’ senses with ludic, creative “button” sounds, calling to mind everyone’s favorite childhood cartoon, Dexter’s Laboratory, where Dexter and his mischievous sister, Dee Dee, frolicked around in his secret bedroom laboratory, inducing a series of catastrophes; yet the two’s energies never seemed to wane, as their minds were entrapped entirely by the chase and nothing else.
Much of the tracks present edgy, evenly spaced tempos that enmesh the listener in a mood of intense concentration and focus. This allows for deeper reflection of the music’s messages. Audio-wise, the tracks reveal the sounds and noises that people seek and aspire for in LA — like the head-bobbing beats and pulses of dance clubs. Yet, there is something else Harding wants to say about the city: amid the constant hustle and bustle, people from all walks of life populate this place. Unfortunately, despite the constant activities and movements, no one seems to be connecting. Moving to LA, Harding needed to form new relationships, and he recounted this process. “You’re changing your life completely and meeting new people and going to different parties and shows. I feel that really informed the sound of the album in a big way,” he said on the band’s website. In “Good News,“ he talks about the frustrations that accompany lust and desire: “Everybody wants somebody to show their body.” In “Speak,“ he sings of the difficulties in trying to communicate and connect with another individual, being lost at words to signal oneself to another: “There are times when I could not speak.” In “Lights,” he ruminates on the challenges that afflict intimacy and relationships: “Did I disappoint you, or did I try?”
A city so densely populated, yet no one seems to be able to grasp the inner workings of human relationship, all floundering along and trying to make it work the best they can. Harding finds himself among one of the millions seeking for that ever-elusive spark. The beats, pulses, and vibrations of the city are always there and never subside. The sounds fill whatever emptiness occupies our hearts, and we’re happier as a result, as long as the music keeps blasting.