Electropop duo Teengirl Fantasy just released their sophomore album Tracer, but the sounds are intentionally anything but hot off the shelf. Snubbing the scripted hooks and builds of today’s popular electronic, the band’s commitment to spontaneous, live mixing led them to an album that sounds more like a nod to where the genre began than an indication of where it is going. But it is a more than welcome throwback in the age of the overplayed sample.
The ten-track album starts off with the aptly named “Orbit,” an intergalactic, dreamy soundtrack-sounding tune with styling somehow reminiscent of both M83 and Neon Indian found among the many layers. After a seven dwarves workshop-esque outro, the album jumps into its most danceable track, “EFX.”
“EFX” is one of only a handful of songs on the album to feature vocals. Female vocalist Kelela carries the track with passionate lyrics and powerful harmonizing, backed up by what sounds like an electro organ choir. Other vocalists featured on the album include Panda Bear from Animal Collective on the warped jungle-like “Pyjama” and Romanthony of Daft Punk’s “One More Time” fame on “Do It,” a track that sounded like a tad too literal homage to ’90s Euro house (Romanthony is heard singing “Let’s do it to it, let’s do it to it to it” after pledging he was “gonna have some fun” and that he wasn’t the only one).
But where Teengirl Fantasy really excels is in their non-vocal work. It seems that every sound imaginable was crammed into the album’s 40-some minutes, from pan flutes and xylophones to pianos and drum machines. The technique has most recently been used by SBTRKT, but Teengirl Fantasy’s songs are markedly less chill and more experimental, resulting in a sort of well-honed sampling of lesser-used Ableton functions.
The song “End” is a perfect example of the duo’s ability to blend unexpected sounds, as the track seems to build like a snowball rolling down a hill, picking up more tones and layers as it speeds past before melting out into gentle chimes and chords. “Vector Spray” similarly creeps up on you in the inner two minutes, growing from a tribal sounding intro to a catchy synthesizer, chime and drum machine combination before fading into the outro of lapping waves.
There is no flow to Tracer, no common theme or consistent heart beat bass. The tracks don’t seem to be arranged in any particular order, and “End” is placed not last but in the middle. For those that think electronic music is defined only by its fist pumpability or light shows, Teengirl Fantasy is inviting you to broaden your definition, and Tracer offers a fleeting glimpse of all that is possible with electronic music production.
But like a daydream, the album is over just as soon as it started, and the tracks faded in memory to a tinkling blur. It’s likely that with this much precision Teengirl Fantasy is a drink best served live, but luckily you’ll have a chance to find out for yourself this Saturday when the duo plays The Sett at Union South. With guaranteed live mixing and intense attention to detail (not to mention a shiny setup), the show may linger longer in your memory than the pleasant but forgettable Tracer.
3.5 out of 5 stars