Hype-sters love a band like Telepathe. What’s more fun to talk about than two cute girls from Brooklyn with a beguiling name and an affinity for Southern gangsta rap and tribal chants? Add that they’re produced and loved by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, and it was inevitable that the group’s first album, Dance Mother, would wilt under the anticipation. But don’t go so fast: There remains vast potential on this record.
Busy Gagnes and Melissa Livaudais sing with a effortless sarcasm that leaves you wondering who the joke’s on. They started making their own beats with laptops and keyboards in 2004, shuffling lineups and genres along the way. Buzz came with two EPs for Social Registry, Farewell Forest (2006) and Sinister Militia (2007). By the time “Chromes On It” came out as an EP, they were touring with Diplo.
Throughout their existence, Telepathe have been all over the place stylistically, switching between primitive disco, leftfield electro, and experimental tribal pop. So it’s not too surprising that Dance Mother, which had been in production since December 2007, contains many loose ends. “Devil’s Trident” opens with a ominous synth loop that promises a huge breakdown but ultimately leads nowhere. Some tracks, like “Michael,” sound more bedroom jam session with Abelton than professional studio for a year.
If only more tracks could sound like “Trilogy,” an eerie anthem of sinister vocals, heavy bass, and tribal drums. “Let’s go make out in the snow, I’ll fuck you up you ought to know,” could be the best lyric on the album, and all the more intimidating in Telepathe’s indifferent lilt. As the track rumbles on, sub-bass punches and snare cracks carry the oohs and ahhs until high-pitched trumpets take over.
For as reputable as he is these days, Mr. Sitek may not have been the best choice at the controls for Telepathe. While the shimmering atmospherics on “Can’t Stand It” and “In Your Line” suggest an obvious resemblance to TV on the Radio, and the duo’s vocals come through most clearly on these two, the question remains, Who is really controlling over Telepathe’s sound?
Indeed, Dance Mother leaves many unanswered questions. But a safe bet is that Telepathe have more tricks up their sleeves. They could start by filling out the middle end of their sound. Or they could just keep shuffling genres and stunting. Either way, you’ll hear about it.