New York-based electronic duo Sofi Tukker consistently nod back to the sheer silliness of chart dance music in years gone by. The late ’90s and early noughties offered something of an imperial era for the form: what with Eiffel 65’s ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’, the aerobics-overload of Eric Prydz’s ‘Call On Me’ and Sak Noel’s ‘Loca People’, we were spoilt for choice.
Sofi Tukker’s 2018 debut album ‘Treehouse’ summoned up a hefty dose of that same spirit. Laden with booming X-Factor voiceover interjections, thumping basslines and smatterings of euro-trash – with many lyrics delivered in rapid-fire bursts of Brazilian Portuguese – the focus is firmly on prompting an immediate surge of let-loose serotonin. As vocalist Sophie Hawley-Weld once put it: “The point is the nonsense.” She was speaking about their previous track ‘Drinkee’. It may as well be an all-encompassing mantra for the group.
Since the heyday of many of Sofi Tukker’s biggest dance influences, the world has changed in drastic ways. We’ve seen a splintering apart of society and a rise in social isolation, and an upsurge in both hate crimes and bigoted views. There’s increasingly a sense that the current political system is falling apart too. With their new EP ‘Dancing on the People’, they’re positioning themselves as a sort of escapist utopia for the outsiders who are shamed elsewhere. They’ve said of the new released: “Our goal is to kill shame, set our spirits free and be together!”
And there’s something simple and appealing about Sofi Tukker’s collective gathering of thrashing limbs. ‘Playa Grande’ – featuring the Colombian duo Bomba Estéreo – is a playful call to the fiesta. ‘Like This’ is pulsing and house-inflected, vocalist Tucker Halpern chipping in with frequently amusing asides. “I’m far too reckless / To have just one drink,” sings Hawley-Weld. “True!” Halpern retorts.
It’s by now no secret that Sofi Tukker have a knack for lairy bangers: ‘Dancing on the People’ is at its most intriguing when the duo delve into murkier waters. In more evocative moments such as ‘Ringless’ or closer ‘Fantasy’, the veneer of euphoria drops its guard slightly. Sugary-sour electro-gloop, with a bittersweet chase, it’s a glimpse of the feelings that send people running for the dancefloor in the first place.