On August 5th via Tricycle Records, Nathan and Zach Blaustone offer their debut work as BLAUS, a self-proclaimed “Booty House” duo. The brothers, based in San Francisco, “merge live instrumentation with digital samples to produce music that blends atmospheric house, experimental tech jazz, and hip-hop.” In doing so, The Tone succeeds as the sort of cult breakthrough Debut was for Björk; production-wise, it is unpredictable, organic, and ultimately a gem that’ll be cherished by their current and soon-to-be fans.
Bordered by a sparkling intro (“Give Up”) and wind out (“Tone Down”), the substance of The Tone is its four central tracks. “I’ve been thinking about you girl,” confesses Nathan on the title track, insisting, “get your phone, dial my number,” in the same accessible and soulful indie pop voice as Majical Cloudz, but sexier — we’d call him (sorry, Devon Welsh). “The Tone” then progresses into a hip-hop inspired beat and a two-and-a-half-minute long instrumental.
“CIRC HAUS,” with its vocal splices well-placed over its continuous melody, is reminiscent of Ambassador’s “Rossler;” whereas soaring vocals on “Hue” liken the track to M83’s “We Own the Sky” — high praise for an electronic debut, but “when I’m with [Hue], I see clearer.” This brief chorus marks the vocal peak of the album, objectively-speaking. “Hue” then breaks into a more experimental series of electronic shuffles, pauses, and steps that nearly fall into disarray; our verdict is that each idea or two could be developed further on its own distinct track rather than this frantic minute-long segment.
Bisecting these vocal tracks is “Wooly,” a highlight of a different calibre. Believe it or not, the harmonica-turned-horn featured on this track is Zach Blaustone… creating the sound with his mouth.
We asked BLAUS about this, and they explained:
Our goal for the album was to blend tangible with digital, producing a sound that makes people question how it was made. We were raised under jazz influences and artists like “The Bird” (Charlie Parker), so as an homage to our heritage, Nathan’s vision was to have a “mouth trumpet”. The goal is to have fans hum along with it at live shows.
We were also wondering about the subject of the EP; the lyrics seem to focus on a person – who is she?
The Tone is about the journey of success. After playing at New Year’s 2013 White Wonderland by Insomniac, we stumbled back into reality with a clumsy vigor and we discovered a deep-rooted desire to spread our vision. When we write songs, we like to introduce multiple meanings for every line. Success is like an alluring woman, though her beauty is exquisite, she can be a dangerous temptress.
On one hand, The Tone is about a girl, but she represents the freedom & passion provided by success. For example, “get your phone, dial my number, I miss your tone, over the summer” was our way of telling the universe that we want more, and hopefully by summer! We wrote this song in January and little did we know, Tricycle Records would be interested in a summer release.
The phrase, “you got me empty girl” was our way of saying that playing an event with 20,000 people filled us up, then emptied our souls. This experience was a humble cleansing of our minds; we realized how far we are from our goals and understand now that the journey is just as meaningful as the destination. All previous conceptions of what it means to be an artist were thrown away.
Suddenly music wasn’t about making people dance, it was about making people connect. Everyone in the crowd, dressed in all white, was an empty vessel waiting to be filled with our sound, and this epiphany truly inspired us.
Also, The Tone is the last half of our last name, BLAUStone. But that’s just a coincidence.