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First Listen: Teengirl Fantasy, 'Tracer'

NPR icon by Otis Hart
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Deadmau5 triggered a controversy in June when he revealed on his blog that his "live" shows involved little more than pressing the play button. It was a refreshingly honest glimpse behind the curtain of electronic dance music — America's fastest-growing genre — but it also gave skeptics another reason to doubt its legitimacy.

To those who insist producers should do more than click the space bar on a MacBook Pro, here's Teengirl Fantasy. Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi don't use samples in their dance music; in fact, there's barely a hint of set-it-and-forget-it drum machines. When it comes to the duo's new album, Tracer, the only person pressing play will be you.

Make no mistake: This is still electronic music you can dance to. But the Autopilot switch has been disengaged and things do get bumpy. No two adjacent bars sound exactly alike, so it's easy to envision Weiss and Takahashi huddled over their hardware, listening closely and constantly tweaking the direction of each song.

Much of Tracer's vibe splits the difference between early techno — with remnants of Orbital's green album from 1991 — and the vintage-synth hypnotism of Manuel Göttsching. But there are also detours into futuristic pop, like the album's single, "EFX," which features singer Kelela. Animal Collective's Panda Bear makes a warped appearance in "Pyjama," while Romanthony (the voice behind Daft Punk's "One More Time") gets anthemic again in "Do It."

The simple message behind "Do It" is an exception on Tracer, which otherwise lacks clear direction in the best possible way. Weiss and Takahashi aren't afraid to go wherever the moment takes them, and while that method of production doesn't automatically make for a "better" or more "legitimate" kind of electronic music, the results do.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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