By Alex Distefano
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By Nate Jackson
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NYC’s Telepathe leave irony out of the equation
These days, two Brooklyn ladies swimming in vintage synths and foggy electro shouldn’t turn many heads. And yet Telepathe, the duo of Busy Gangnes and Melissa Livaudais, have long been haloed with hype.
Maybe it’s that their eerie creations lend themselves so naturally to remixes. Or maybe they just have the right friends, such as TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek, who produced Telepathe’s recently released debut LP, Dance Mother. Or maybe it’s because they manage to serenely meld a dappled shoegaze aesthetic with pinging hip-hop influences and a love of surreal ’80s synthesizers.
Released by the LA label IAMSOUND, Dance Mother marks a bold evolution from the band’s initial pair of droney EPs on the Social Registry. It’s spacey, dancey and vague, recalling everything from the Blow and Broadcast to Telepathe’s friends Chairlift and TV On the Radio.
“We were really bored and tired of playing in a ‘rock band,’” write the duo via e-mail from Canada, where their cell phones have been rendered useless. “We wanted to start arranging, composing [and] producing music.” They’re somewhat demure about the songwriting process, saying they simply start with a beat, construct a melody, and then sing over that combination.
Telepathe (pronounced “telepathy”) hooked up with Sitek through a mutual friend and now consider him a mentor. Sitek guided them through the making of their lush, ephemeral album, which also features members of !!! and Don Caballero, as well as backing vocals from Sitek’s band mate Kyp Malone. Dance Mother began to come together with the seven-minute track “Trilogy: Breath of Life, Crimes and Killings, Threads and Knives,” inspired by Gangnes and Livaudais setting up their home studio. Despite it being a fairly moody journey with a wealth of open space, the song may have been their “first attempt at making ‘pop music,’” they say.
The songs that have really whetted appetites for Telepathe’s full-length outing, though, are the delirious singles “Chrome’s On It” and “So Fine,” which kick off the record and actually do sound like an arty, throbbing strain of pop. Like many Telepathe tracks, those two appear to be looking at once to the past, present and future for inspiration. Gangnes and Livaudais readily admit the specter of the ’80s hovers over their wavering synths, stuttered beats and sidelong atmosphere.
“All of that synth music is pretty haunting, and it does happen to all come out of the ’80s,” they say. “We are kind of obsessed with gear, and most of the stuff we love was made in the ’80s. So, even if not intentional, it just ends up sounding spooky or something, [like] visions of the Cold War era.”
Of course, another legacy of the ’80s is a love of dancing free of the subsequent decades’ self-loathing and irony. Telepathe craft brain-teasing electro pop you can instantly get moving to—“Does everybody really need ‘four on the floor’ to dance? We don’t think so,” they say—and even enlist dancers to join them onstage in every city they visit. They’ve got a regular cast of dancers in New York, but Telepathe have an open call for the rest of the world. Perhaps credit Gangnes’ background in dance for this touch, or simply a desire to get indie kids to uncross their arms and uproot their feet.
There’s plenty of dancing in the coy, eye-catching music video for “So Fine,” shot on film and directed by an old friend of the band’s, filmmaker Kate Nolfi. In fact, other than wanting to shoot it in the immediate proximity of their Brooklyn apartments, Gangnes and Livaudais’ only requirement for the video was that it include dancing. “We told [Nolfi] she could shape the concept however she wanted,” they say, “but we had to have a dance scene. So [we] invited friends over and made up some moves.”
Knowing that, you can expect Telepathe’s Detroit Bar appearance to translate smoothly into a full-blown, limb-wagging party. And despite using so much arcane electronic gear in their music, Gangnes and Livaudais aren’t shy about making the live show its own buzzing entity.
“We’ve sampled all of our sounds,” they say, “and have made live arrangements for all of our songs. It’s almost as if we’ve remixed our own record.”
Telepathe with Nite Jewel at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Tues., 9 p.m. $10.