“I get really emotional about dance music,” says Teengirl Fantasy’s Nick Weiss. “Especially stuff that doesn’t seem like it has emotion in it. When those super low frequencies hit—it’s the same feeling I get with noise. It’s that feeling of harshness with rigidity of meter and time and stuff without vocals. That affects me a lot.” He could be talking about a moment 30 seconds into “EFX,” from their sophomore album, Tracer, where there’s a rumble of bass that fills in all the empty spaces of the song. It comes right as bright but tentative keys are about to wear out their welcome, and its unexpectedness recharges the song. A similarly modern take on late night house music is explored—and flipped on its head—across the rest of the album’s ten tracks.
Now based in New York, Teengirl started in Ohio, where Weiss and the group’s other half, Logan Takahashi, attended college at Oberlin. Both studied music, and they bonded over early investigations of the melancholy, textured electronic songs like the ones they would later go on to make themselves. While they still operate at arm’s length from a traditional house structure, Teengirl’s beginnings were much more exploratory and befitting of their roots. Takahashi’s journey to house came through the experimental. He grew up in New Jersey and frequently traveled to New York to catch left-of-center shows. “I just liked the idea of all these bands creating a new language,” he says. “Seeing that shit when I was like 14 or 15 blew my mind.” If their first album was a steppingstone in blending the weird and the straightforward, with Tracer, they’ve found a good middle ground. “With this album, we were a little bit more self-aware than with the last one, and that is maybe what makes some of the tracks feel more straight up and utilitarian. We both love functional music,” says Weiss. “We’re really young and we have a really free sense of what we could do.”
When Takahashi and Weiss released their debut album, 7AM, in 2010, their mission statement was made by the standout “Dancing in Slow Motion,” a track that virtually drawled out its handclaps, coaxing a blast of air from each one. It sounds like the last good moment at the end of the world, if the end of the world actually happened to be a dingy dance floor just after last call. Tracer pushes that downtrodden experimentation further by marrying it with a more traditional sound. “I think it’s some form of that high that people get from partying and dancing all night mixed with something kind of sad about that feeling,” says Weiss. That mix is present on nearly every track: The stuttering, psychedelic lounge of “Mist of Time,” which features distant vocals from Laurel Halo, or the presence of a pining Panda Bear guest vocal on the transcendent “Pyjama.” Then there’s “Do It,” which features Romanthony, the legendary-in-some-circles singer who may be best known for chanting One more time on the Daft Punk song of the same name. It’s kind of cheesy, but it’s also the most straightforward song on the record. For once, there’s no tinge of melancholy whatsoever. It’s an important gesture towards inclusiveness within the dance world at large and a harbinger of their future. Teengirl Fantasy might be playing with the format, but they’re in love with it too.
Stream: Teengirl Fantasy, Tracer