Teengirl Fantasy’s music invites one to return to the past, but without making an exhibition of their historical knowledge. Maybe - as is also the case with another duo that takes a similar approach, New York’s Blondes - that is their drawing card: a simulation of a state of permanent discovery. Everything in “Tracer” seems to be an effort to put certain sounds from two decades ago into a current context, as was already the case with their debut album, that wonderful, hypnotic “7AM” (True Panther-Merok, 2010). They have already expressed this by stating that their intention was “to make a certain kind of dance music without emulating what we were listening to” and which is parallel to a feverish process of reclaiming and digesting old records and production techniques. Contrary to the revivalists of gliding music, with Oneohtrix Point Never at the head, who seem to know more than anyone about the albums that they revise - German kosmische music, proto-new age, drone, 80s synth-pop AOR - Teengirl Fantasy’s mastery of concepts like Detroit and ambient-house seems to be limited, or not erudite, but what they are lacking in memory and archival qualities, they make up for in intuition and love. And this is where “Tracer” ignites in pure light.
There is a slight difference between this second album and “7AM”: the first was floating, disorientating and it reflected that mental state indicated in the title. That feeling of being lucid, but also mentally tired after a night out clubbing; there was the happiness of silence, with the echoes of the sound system still resounding in your memory. The bpms only sped up for the final cut, “Cheaters”, a superb exercise in progressive house. On the other hand, “Tracer” is more of a warm-up album, not for leaving, but for coming in: without putting you in the middle of the dance floor, it develops the preambles with profound emotion, the turning off of the lights, the first beats when you’re just getting started, and absorbing textures. Teengirl Fantasy are at the other end of the spectrum from the wave of commercial American EDM – particularly deadmau5 and Avicii - although they are joined to them by an invisible thread. While the latter seek a state of euphoria through amplification and accumulation, following one of those “fatal strategies” that philosopher Jean Baudrillard indicated in his day, our men seek the same connection with pop, euphoria and a happy experience from melancholy and the understanding of the history that they come from.
Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi have managed to find the perfect mood for “Tracer”. It is an album that grows, intensifies its impacts, and just before finishing - as they also did in “7AM” - they wrap it up with an instant of maximum euphoria. The thing is that in “7AM” the party went on at home, and here, with “Timeline” they let you know that the warm-up is over and the night has started. It’s a song that, like “Cheaters”, ends up disintegrating in acid basslines. It contains beats that start and slow, alongside atmospheric synthesizers, all produced with that erratic technique - without loops, without synchronising machines, playing by ear - that takes us back so well to the early years of the rave phenomenon. You can tell that they have listened good and hard to 808 State and Derrick May. If we have to limit the album in terms of the years that might have inspired it, they would have to be 1989-1992: “Orbit” seems like a reworking of a classic from the Wau! Mr. Modo label (it’s not exactly like The Orb, but it has a lot of the pulsing, suspenseful ambient of Alex Paterson, and the title of the song doesn’t seem to be a coincidence) and with its piano and psychedelic push, “Eternal” might also remind one of “Mind Odyssey” (one of the Warp classics signed by - get this - Eternal). They still like the half-times that earned them the Balearic label on “7AM”, and which are fully 90s here: “Inca”, “Vector Spray” and “End” are downtempo pieces that seek to float in space.
Lastly there is the pop register, which is the finishing touch on the album. Although the 12” “Motif” didn’t make it to the final tracklist - its epic function is met by “Timeline”, in any case - there are sweets to attract other audiences, far from underground clubbing, to their garden of delights. From a collaboration with Panda Bear with sounds of bamboo (“Pyjama”) to cosmic new jack swing in “EFX” with newcomer Kelela; from the nebulous pop of “Mist Of Time” with Laurel Halo to the real gem, “Do It”, in which Romanthony works his lungs hard, proving in this passionate, respectful old-school homage that they haven’t forgotten Chicago house. There is dance music today that makes you cry because it’s so low-quality, but this makes you cry because you are moved.