If their name earns Teengirl Fantasy a few extra Google hits, they deserve it: Tracer, the follow-up to their 2010 debut, 7AM, is a carefully balanced collage of experimental electronica and stylish vocal pop on which Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi display a technical prowess to match many of EDM’s current stars (two of them, Laurel Halo and Panda Bear, appear as guests here). Weiss and Takahashi have developed an exciting, modern sound, layering cutting-edge beats over romantic synth melodies and creating rhythms that seem familiar yet still spiked with surprises, like the Jewel of the Nile soundtrack on ketamine.
There’s a narcotic rush of ideas on Tracer, which belies its pop/teen imagery, which extends to the band’s imitation Angelfire webpage. The two years Takahashi and Weiss put into writing and recording the album is evidenced by the scope of the songs here, from “Inca,” a ticking, slab-heavy soul instrumental, to “Eternal,” which adds panpipes to pulsing Berlin electro. In spite of their differences, both tracks have a warm, sensual vibe to them. The same can be said for “Vector Spray,” whose light techno rhythm references the score for Run Lola Run, and “EFX,” a breezy collaboration with Kelela, who sounds like a sedated Katy Perry.
The album’s centerpiece is “Mist of Time,” a co-production with Laurel Halo that, though not as instantly catchy as “Do It,” takes Teengirl Fantasy’s sound to an ethereal, intimate high. Fresh from her own LP on the innovative Hyperdub label, Halo drapes her operatic voice over the haphazard beat, sleepy synth pads melting around her as delicately as the song’s title. It might not be as cinematic as the piano-led “End” or as colorful as opener “Orbit,” but it shows how the duo can sustain their blissed-out mood without sacrificing attention to detail. One of the most consistent EDM albums of the year, Tracer refuses to simply alternate between disco and electronica; it blends the two, and should prompt enough repeat listens to confirm Weiss and Takahashi’s place alongside the pioneers they’ve collaborated with.