TEEN - In Limbo
TEEN, as the name suggests, are in the adolescent stage of their career. They've been playing together since 2010, digitally releasing their debut EP, Little Doods, in April 2011; creating varying sounds from pounding, lo-fi psychedelia ('Better') to sullen, angelic folk-drone ('Ocean Pearl').
The bands' cousins, i.e. Here We Go Magic and Spider (Teeny Lieberson and Jane Herships), provide an interesting point of reference. Note the direction towards obscurity that much of their debut LP, In Limbo, takes. This could be recognised in earlier HWGM work in particular but their recent, A Different Ship LP, became a much more inclusive creation. Spider, as well, has a much more accessible sound tending towards memorable pop-hooks that lace themselves between folk origins. TEEN clearly have an ear for something a little strange and interesting to the ear, if not always entirely comfortable.
They begin by recalling the directness of post-punk ('Better') - leaning towards something a lá Wild Flag - but I don't necessarily buy that as an accurate comparison in general. There are many more layers, both musically and spiritually, to the majority of tracks. Often they combine abrasive percussion, celestial harmonic melodies and echoing, static tension ('In Limbo', 'Sleep Is Noise'). Aspects of the likes of Warpaint and Julia Holter are implanted by using multi-faceted, dreamy and accessible melodies in tracks soaked with layers of drone and fuzz.
As a portrayal of its title, the record responds perfectly. In Limbo, feels exactly that. It sits within a medium of obscurity that rarely shifts away from grey areas. Beneath the dense arrangements are wonderfully crafted pop songs submerged within a deluge of electric noise ('Why, Why, Why'). There is a constant juxtaposition between instantly appealing and rewarding melodic harmonies and the music beneath, which is the polar opposite, of imploding rumbles. TEEN conjures reminiscences of acapella music, as well, providing the sound with layers which would have otherwise abandoned it as rather hollow ('Fire').
In Limbo, however, ultimately feels uncertain. Having heard simplified versions of 'Why, Why, Why' and 'In Limbo' it's clear that these are songs that can be desperately emotional, and while they are affecting in this form they serve as a clear conflict between the ambitions of TEEN. On one hand they are endlessly talented vocalists that, as a group, rise to ethereal heights when creating dynamic harmonies. Conversely, they choose to disguise this with droning echoes that detract from, rather than enhance that quality. When the sound comes together it's when the vocals become more direct and the harmonies are understated ('Electric', 'Come Back'). The constancy of heavy percussion, myriad effects and the density of the vocals themselves become a little too much to digest when forced into every alcove. What's needed is refinement to not throw all of the aspects at every song, all of the time. There is never a release from the heavy atmosphere of the record with any kind of differing arrangement and as such it can become wearying. As a debut album it's a little over-crowded with ideas and ambition, the former being understandable and the latter of which I greatly admire.