Dat’R Turn Up the Ghosts

[Hush; 2007]

Styles: dancerock, new new wave, indie electronic
Others: Out Hud, The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem

Being a big fan of the "Get the Indie Folk Dancing" movement of the past few years, I find Dat'R's overall project quite endearing. Their debut, Turn Up the Ghosts, has all the hallmarks of a great underground dance record with live funky drumming, twinkling synth accents, and smooth basslines. So why is it that I can't quite get my mind to be free (so as to have my ass follow)? What keeps me from reaching that blissful point of release that would get me to throw this party-starting platter on for the stimulation of bodily gyrations?

The answers come largely in the vocal elements of the album. Matt Dabrowiak's chosen mode of intoning is what I would describe as a nasal whine, which as he climbs up in register intensifies in its chafery. Another problem is that as the musical energy climbs, the voice seems to get more detached in tone, killing the potential liberatory effects of a crescendo. Compare this with another whining dancerocker, The Rapture's Luke Jenner. His Robert Smith-esque approach cracks and trembles as it rises, making one feel that a song could teeter off the tracks into an orgiastic abyss. In contrast, Dabrowiak mostly sounds like he's being forced to fulfill his vocal obligations, pushing himself past his comfort zone, not because he's caught up in the frenzy but because the song demands it.

At other times, when Dabrowiak takes a more subdued/hushed approach, as in "Choice Cuts in Sauce," the vocal tone works much better. It's more of a trip hop-vibe, and the whine settles into a concerned whisper that works nicely with the music. There's a real sense of tension, like something sinister is going on just beneath the surface. As the album closer, this track at least leaves me optimistic about Dat'r's future. The music is fairly solid, if a bit too reliant on lengthy repetitive passages, and with a little work, I could easily imagine them churning out a record that could get some serious dancefloor workouts going.

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