Teengirl Fantasy Thermal

[Break World; 2014]

Styles: ambient, techno, house
Others: Andras Fox, Omar S, Gatekeeper

In 2012, ambient techno duo Teengirl Fantasy had two releases on R&S: “Motif,” a 12-inch single, and Tracer. Both were clean, sophisticated, and affecting in such a way that built upon the delicate muzak of 2010’s 7AM. “Motif” remains one of my favorite R&S releases, and you can hear its echoes in Tracer tracks like “End” and “Inca,” in which a drama is staged detailing the battle between the dexterity required of pumping futuristic sounds out of old machines and the sonic limitations of these dated methods. The most recent Teengirl Fantasy release, last year’s Nun, disappointed me because, somehow, both the friction and the beauty I came to associate with Teengirl Fantasy were muted in favor of louder, punchier drums and “dancier” hooks. With Thermal, I feel like, partially due to its length, there’s a lot less to talk about than there is with any of these releases (including “Motif”), except perhaps Nun. Still, these are all good songs, and they indicate a return to form.

“Cavescape” and “7:30 AM” hearken to the more erratic ambient moments of Tracer. The biggest single development between 7AM and that album seemed to be a loss of innocence, as the pair realized that, in aspiring to sonic perfection and commercial clarity with older, less fashionable electronic music gear, something interesting was being excluded. “Cavescape” is evocative of that paradigm shift in its use of sound parameter modulations as a rhythmic tool, jumping in time with the drums. “7:30 AM,” a highlight, employs (and possibly references) the melodic repetition of 7AM as well as the louder drums of the last couple releases. While these tracks are only slightly better than Teengirl Fantasy “deep cuts,” they still provide excellent points of reference for everything that the duo has always been very good at.

I can’t get over the fact that “Lung” and “U Touch Me” both feature different female vocalists whose hooks sound a lot like Kelela’s on Tracer’s “EFX.” The thing that sets these most clearly apart from the latter, though, is a percussive loudness that recursively reminds me of the future bass stylings of Kelela’s CUT 4 ME. I’m much more interested in the dialogue between “EFX” and pre-Tracer R&B cuts like “Dancing in Slow Motion” than in some kind of relating to a brand of techno/R&B that developed concurrently with and arguably somewhat inspired by Teengirl Fantasy’s techno. Still, I guess I can’t expect Teengirl Fantasy not to cross-pollinate, and even though these songs remind me of stuff I like less than Teengirl Fantasy, they’re still bangers. The distant vibraphones on “Lung” sound elevator-cool, and “U Touch Me” has a sublime bridge, in which lead synths and vocal samples swell blissfully together. I only wish the lyrics felt as purposeful as they did on “Cheaters” and the aforementioned “Dancing in Slow Motion,” for which they were necessary in what for Teengirl Fantasy is essential labor: building a vibe.

The importance of that goal for Teengirl Fantasy is probably why I don’t think the EP format works as well for them as the album and the 12-inch single. In both of the latter cases, they actually have time to pull something intricate off, whereas Thermal and Nun feel like rough sketches. With that said, Thermal is a decent sketch. It’s retrofuturistic like the duo’s best work, and forecasts interesting things to come.

Links: Teengirl Fantasy - Break World

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