Casually lumped in with acts like Ital, Mi Ami and Miracles Club of the silky-rough, slightly tempo-dizzy "hipster house" of the last several years, Teengirl Fantasy seemed like they were the act closest to summiting that heap and crossing over into larger dance music notoriety. Their soft, fuzz-blurred 2010 debut, 7 AM, was anchored in the clean, triumphant synth lines and soul-bent vocals of "Cheaters," which went on to see remixes from both John Talabot and Beautiful Swimmers on Talabot's own Hivern Discs. With the news that London dance institution R&S had signed the duo for the release of their second album, it seemed proof something really promising was around the corner for Nick Weiss and Logan Takahishi.
After listening through their second LP, Tracer, though, the facts are soon revealed; the album reeks of missed opportunities, squandered chances. With vocal help across the album from some of electronic and indie's nows of the last several years—including Laurel Halo and Panda Bear—as well as from dance music vet Romanthony, the two have obviously called in some favors to help round out the edges of their loose, Balearic-leaning brand of bedroom house music. Eschewing samples in favor of electronic creations entirely their own, there's often the sense of the two trying to strain unfocused jams and studio meanderings into songs typically barren of notable hooks or sonic alchemy of any sort. There's little coherence within this pile-up of sounds, this assembly of tried-and-abandoned pathways, of false ins and detours; as such it's very difficult to really find a place of focus.
The Panda track, "Pyjama," finds Lennox hovering over tumbling drum pummels and various rain forest pseudo chimes in a formless joyous mash. Laurel Halo's voice-from-beyond talents are likewise wasted on the swirling synth and dubby drum churns of "Mist of Time." Elsewhere, "Inca" never really elevates beyond its initial forest-flute style melody, drowned out in a slew of bass gurgles and erratic synths, and Romanthony's spot on "Do It" is ersatz Daft Punk-style anthemics, subsiding into cheap heavy-night dance floor clichés and an empty chorus, "I'm gonna do it/do it/I wanna have some fun/I'm not the only one."
With that said, there are still a few moments where all the internet-ink and anticipation for TGF's sophomore effort seem almost warranted. "Vector Spray" is a light, vintage workout, at times almost like a warmer, more open-eyed take on the subaquatic house of Drexciya. And the first-morning burst of closer "Timeline" sounds both effortlessly evocative of 2012 and driftily nostalgic about possibilities past. In fact, with its wide sloping Martian synth washes and bug-twitch melody, stroked against a series of whispered breaths, "Orbit" opens the album with the very kind of instantaneous atmospheric appeal so lacking elsewhere. Consider Tracer, then, a somewhat stunted, companion piece to their debut, all the more frustrating for their lack of real development. These kids may yet get up to something really remarkable, but they seem stuck in creative stall.
Tracklist: Teengirl Fantasy - Tracer 01. Orbit
02. EFX feat. Kelela
04. Pyjama feat. Panda Bear
05. Mist of Time feat. Laurel Halo
07. Vector Spray
09. Do It feat. Romanthony
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