Teengirl Fantasy - Tracer
Bonding over a shared love of techno and house music, it was no surprise that Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi's first album as Teengirl Fantasy, 7AM, was heralded as something a bit different from bog-standard dance music. On it, the duo ran with the concept of an album to be listened to at 7AM or as they put it the "confused, dreamy, half-asleep state that one experiences after staying up all night partying," using numerous samples and improvised experimentation to create the haze, mystique and emotive nature of an early morning come-down.
But now on their second full length Tracer, the fixation with the early morning is seemingly gone. From the off it's much more apparent that this album is far more suited to 1AM than 7AM. There's an increased deal of clarity within the music, marking a colourful and energetic coming-up rather than a hazy coming-down. The production in this sense feels tighter and more focused, with a swift ditching of samples in favour of completely original instrumentation from the duo, and with vocals coming from various exciting names in modern music this album is certainly an interesting prospect for fans of complex electronic music. Album opener 'Orbit' recalls walking through an arcade when a particularly alluring game lights up whirring in front of you. The synths flicker magestically and the occasional hammer of a beat comes in and out, making it an enticing opener but not necessarily a hint of what is to come. Following on is 'EXP' featuring new-comer Kelela, who quite frankly could have been in the business for years coming across as confident and emotive as she does on the track. Her vocals provide an unexpected take on pop music of sorts, when played atop of the spaced-out slow jam type beat. It's hard not to see the song as a possible launch-pad to reach a wider audience for both Kelela and Teengirl Fantasy, as it's easily one of the duo's most accessible songs to date.
Along with Kelela, as mentioned earlier there are several guest vocalists littered throughout the album. Perhaps the most recognisable and influential of them being Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) of Animal Collective, who contributes his vocals to 'Pyjama'. Although without prior information, it's not really that easy to attribute Noah's vocals to himself as they are disguised and distorted behind the electronics. It's a very sonically paranoid track, with jittering beats and swathes of distortion, in a sense it kind of recalls some Strawberry Jam era Animal Collective, but would more so if that album had been produced by Actress or Four Tet. The other more recognisable vocal appearance on the record is that of Laurel Halo. Off the back of her recent brilliantly haunting album Quarantine, she delivers a dependable performance on 'Mist Of Time' providing the ethereal chanting you'd come to expect when familiarised with her music, but just because it's predictable it doesn't make it any less haunting, particularly when played atop the enveloping beat and clear synth atmospherics. And then on 'Do It' we're introduced to Romanthony once again. I say once again, as some may recognise the name from Daft Punk's 'One More Time' to which he provided the vocals to one of the best dance songs of all time (arguably). Romanthony too does a pretty good job here, with his controlling vocals complimenting the fast-paced beat and bass throb. Fun and upbeat lyrics such as "It's now or never, ready set go!" shows he has retained the same hedonistic optimism displayed on 'One More Time', although this effort is not quite as memorable.
In fact, on 'Pyjama', 'Mist Of Time' and 'Do It', the most notable element often isn't the vocals. Despite the impressive roster of guests, Teengirl's music is seems always to be the main focus. Some may argue they're not getting enough out of their guests, but perhaps Teengirl just demand the attention. The evidence can be looked at with the rest of the album, where Teengirl Fantasy are on their own. 'Eternal' pays more dues to the duo's beloved techno, with a stuttering repetitive throb evocative of late nights in Berlin clubs. While both 'Vector Spray' and 'Inca' show more of the duo's house influence, not a million miles away from their debut, as the tracks pound hypnotically and unflinching. In these instances, it is clear that when required Teengirl Fantasy can do music for clubs and are highly adept at the art of the late night bass swell and pounding beat, it's sort of a shame that they didn't try it more on this album in place of some of the more floaty tracks like 'End' with it's cascading otherworldly sounds. It sounds magical and enchanting to a degree, but gets a bit lost amidst more exciting and intense moments going on within 'Tracer'.
All in all, this is a solid experimental record with the influences of house and techno apparent, but not outrightly ripped off. The vocalists and tightened production show a distinct progression for the duo, who fit in more than nicely on their current label R&S' already stellar roster, and have made one of the more intriguing dance music releases of 2012 so far.