PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Telepathe: Dance Mother

New Brooklyn band, synth-heavy, attitude-heavy, good!


Dance Mother

Label: Iamsound
US Release Date: 2009-04-14
UK Release Date: 2009-01-26

I hadn't heard much of Telepathe before a few months ago, when Owen Pallett (of Final Fantasy) raved about them on Twitter – then was outraged when Pitchfork's review "attributes Telepathe "Dance Mother"'s successes to Dave Sitek. *Barf*." I think he got his point across. Sitek, who's better known as the production genius behind and member of TV on the Radio, is likely to be mentioned in most of the reviews of Telepathe's debut album Dance Mother, that you care to read. We need to tread carefully here. The relationship between producer and artist is a delicate one, and without our being there for the recording sessions themselves we can't really make much of an assessment of each's relative contribution to the final product. On the other hand, putting down a female group's success down to their male producer has obvious problems.

What we do know is that Telepathe is Melissa Livudais and Busy Ganges, two women from Bushwick, Brooklyn, and that in their short career they have played up that certain Brooklyn-artist crunchy glamour. In keeping with this image, their music itself layers synths and guitars in ways that capture that current Brooklyn art-pop sound. TV on the Radio is certainly in there as a reference-point, but Telepathe also has something of M83's shoegaze-meets-dance thing going on, too. Though the prominent vocals give them a pop vibe, Telepathe are more patient, and more comfortable with repetition (dance music's basic tenet). The album, starting from its roots, kicks off with a New Order big-room percussion and hardly looks back.

But separate from these referents and influences, the group is able to create a fairly distinctive sound through apposition of unexpected rhythmic motifs and sparser timbres than are initially expected. The band approaches dance music obliquely. Livaudais and Ganges, often singing together, invest more feeling into their songs than last year's crop of disinterested female-vocal dance-pop groups. Occasional experiments in talk-singing aside, their intoxicated delivery has a flat appeal. On "Lights Go Down", a dubstep-inspired track, Livaudais (or Ganges) enunciates the 't' on refrain "the hunt, the winners" and while I'm still not sure what the point of the phrase is, it's a memorable one.

The most successful songs on Dance Mother tame and shape this fragmenting impulse towards true pop. "Chrome's on It", the first single, juxtaposes a disorienting arpeggiated verse with the deliciously nonsensical machine-gun stutter refrain "I can feel the real bang-bang." If you haven't already heard it, you should. "Can't Stand It", the album's most fully realised song, plays like a Grizzly Bear interpretation of some lost Esau Mwamwaya anthem, patiently building to a warm climax.

Say what you will about Telepathe's technical prowess, their songs are pretty uniformly enjoyable. And whether it's due to the band, or the producer, or (probably) by the powers of both combined, the material on Dance Mother is slickly constructed, too. Telepathe have made a strong opening statement in what will hopefully be a fruitful ongoing collaboration with one of indie music's most accomplished producers.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.