If newness is your thing – new sounds, new style, new attitude – then ‘Dance Mother’ is for you. This is a record that sounds like 2009 for the chief reason that it doesn’t sound like anything else that’s come before it. Both serene and schizophrenic, pretentious and pop, the debut album from Brooklyn’s Telepathe – aka musical (and formerly romantic) partners Busy Gangnes and Melissa Livaudais – doesn’t so much mash together genres as drift in limbo among them.
Floating between crystalline electronica, misty shoegaze and ass-shaking club-rap, ‘Dance Mother’ is disorientating by design; like being set down on some unfamiliar street corner where the drone of synth from a nearby window meets the boom of bass from a passing car, and snippets of overheard conversation hang in the air like cryptic incantations.
More than any other outfit since TV On The Radio, Telepathe illustrate the modern hipster condition: why choose between Lil Wayne, Animal Collective, Madonna and My Bloody Valentine, when you can have all of it, all at once? The main peril of this approach is information overload: or, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Thankfully for Telepathe, they have a helping hand in the shape of TVOTR’s Dave Sitek, who knows a little about such synthesis. ‘Chrome’s On It’, a popping future R&B number that finds Busy and Melissa pulling goofy, Missy-like rhymes over glimmering synth and tumbling electronic drums, does it best.
Similarly great is ‘Lights Go Down’, lolloping Arabic melodies and laser gun pee-yows that survey hometown peers Gang Gang Dance through a curved mirror. Deeper in, though, there’s moments that gel less well. ‘Trilogy – Breath Of Life, Crimes And Killings, Threads And Knives’ is seven minutes of dancing violins, dubstep bass, and continual left turns that, while brave, feels oddly unengaging. That’s a feel that blights ‘Dance Mother’ here and there, and while you leave charmed by their inventiveness, it’s hard not to want more moments like ‘In Your Line’, a song of fading love born up on flickering synthesizer that, for all its soft textures, keeps its aims in crisp focus.
Busy and Melissa have made a record that shimmers with possibilities, mapping out an alien territory that’s eerily inviting. Now it’s time to build on it.