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without prejudice or technique









(from Plan B Magazine 2009) 

Eyup folks, it's 2009 and I'm just wundrin - do we have forward motion? Hasn't anyone been watching this dial, checking the rear-view? Ain't anyone concerned to see the future came and went a while back and all we're doing is revving pop down a circular grave, misdirected by an industry and media blinkeredly convinced it's on the right road just cos everyone who counts agrees so? Even 2009's most resolute poptimists have to be brutally honest with what carrion & cobblers the charts are strewn with in these weird perma-1985 days we're in. Butchered remains, corpses fucked so hard they crumble, all in the name of 'another great year for music'. For 'great' read busy, read lucrative, read holding pattern, read the reassurance only a shareholder could desire. Counter-intuitive hint – it's that which we'll have to go back on that really counts, those sounds you know you're going to have to re investigate immediately, those sounds that stall your consumer-agility in a frozen hour of reverie and old-skool ravishment, because the detail and the shock of first-exposure to that detail is too revelatory an experience, too much of a dimensional leap away from 4-square fauxturist reality to simply file with the rest, divide from your heart and conquer with category.. It was my first reaction on hearting Telepathe's 'Dance Mother', knowing the sure ledge that I'd have to hang on to this, let it grow into me as I grow into it, knowing that encompassing this disc within brain and booty would take time, might even be impossible . Not a record that gives you what you want, but that gives you a challenge and deluge you thought you'd been deadened to. Odd refreshment of parched presumed-perished parts:  'Dance Mother', the album Brooklynites Busy Gangnes & Melissa Livaudais have spent the best part of the last two years creating, needles and nuances it's way into your body, into your walk and talk and the tangent you take at the universe, whilst at the same time knowing when to leave you rapt, bereft of co-ordinates, unsure of anything but the new horizon you're hurtling towards. Yes 'Dance Mother' offers forward motion, but it's got viscosity, dazzle, derailment and distraction enough to swallow '09 whole. It's smart enough to try and be everything, generous enough to be like nothing else.

   “All through our lives” admits Busy, “we've listened to music. A lot of different music. The key with everything we've loved is that in it's time it was totally unlike everything else. There was only ever one goal with Telepathe and that is to be unique.”
   “With us listening to so much music from so many different places and times that can be difficult” asserts Melissa. “But when a track has that extra feel to it, that feel that it's no longer this or that type of music and can only be Telepathe music, then we know it's something we can put our name to. We're not into this for any other reason than surpassing what we know and what the audience expect. Otherwise, why bother making music at all?”

Tru'ndeed. The shock for me hearing 'Dance Mother' is that I don't look for that isolated motivation in bands anymore. Only in some hip-hop, some chartpop, some club music do I find any kind of break from the revoltingly collaborative vibe of mutual mediocrity currently asphyxiating rock with it's own shitty-pampers . I read that hip-hop was an 'influence' on you but it seems way more than a cosmetic infatuation, on tracks like 'Chrome On It' & 'Can't Stand It' it seems more like a metabolic, cell-deep upbringing.
  “Well, it's a music we can't avoid” admits Busy. “Living where we do hip-hop is in the air, coming out of passing cars, radios, shops – it's everywhere. You'd have to be pretty close-minded in our bit of Brooklyn to not have hip-hop kind of running through your veins.”
   “Added to which it's something we've always listened to obsessively” says Melissa, “purely from a production perspective. If you're making beats and not listening to hip-hop what the hell are y'doing?!”
   Sure, seems obvious – but the key thing always missed about hip-hop, especially when processed/partied-with by, ahem, auslanders, is that in hip-hop beats are hooks and hooks are beats and these are things you have to FEEL under your skin, tugging your flesh. You can't just affect the revolutionary nature of hip-hop with a few choice techniques or samples worked into already-formulated orthodoxies– it has to fuck with your sense of sonic propriety to be understood or even embarked on.
   “Right” nods Busy. “Because if you listen to hip-hop it changes the way you hear everything, not just music. Hip-hop is important to us because from a lyrical and sonic angle it encourages the use of everything, and the freedom to explore everything.”
Melissa: “I should just say that from the beginning of working with Busy– it was clear that doing anything that a traditional band would do was gonna be total anathema to us. At every point in Telepathe we've taken what traditional 'bands' have done as a direct lesson in what we MUST not do.”
  But you have pals! In bands! I don't want to list them/neuter you in situ.
“So don't. We're friendly with bands in a social sense but in a musical sense I think we feel totally alone. And we really wouldn't want it any other way.”

   When you say 'we' – how together a concept is that? This goes beyond collaboration don't it – seems more like sharing a soul. On much of 'Dance Mother', it's impossible to disentangle your individual roles within Telepathe's sound, let alone even ascribe the sounds to a discernible human touch. Siamese-twin voices. A whole firmament of treble. Killer beats, unafraid to slip repetition's leash and pile themselves up. Always a unified whole. What's clear is that not only do you make music together, you hear it together too.
  Busy: “Yeah. Me and Melissa are in each others pockets and have been forever. We hear the same sounds, we spend all our time together, so when one of us has an idea it doesn't require much explanation to the other. I wouldn't say we don't each have individual skills we bring though. Melissa's great at responding to my melodies and brilliant at thinking up beats, I'm good at melodies & then layering those things up with proper notation to make all the harmonies work. That's that detail thing you were talking about: we always aim to give people too much to listen to in one go. And we never really do that thing of 'sitting down to write a song' – our tracks emerge more from . . . play, and investigation and experiment, rather than having a single thing on our minds we want to express. I kind of disagree that it sounds inhuman – it sounds more human to me because we came at the technology without prejudice or technique”.

   Melissa: “It's not like we 'jam' or sit down and 'write' a song. It's more like . . we'll hear something, somewhere, and we'll love it and want to pay homage by 'stealing' it, making it our own. We work on ideas together in the studio or at home, and things just grow. There's a lot of different influences going on in our sound . . .”
[Kate Bush, Insides, Fleetwood Mac, The RZA, Hood and a cast of thousands]
   Busy: “. . but hip-hop is like the building block, the method through which we work with what we have. We really see ourselves as a production team rather than a band and we'd seek to mould ourselves musically along the same lines of possibility that Timbaland, The Neptunes, the Bomb Squad or Dre work in.”
   How did the creation of 'Dance Mother' bring that production sense on. I mean, it's leaps and bounds beyond anything you made before.
   “It really comes down to the environment Dave Sitek set up for us in the studio” insists Melissa. “We have never had enough money to bring what we hear in our heads to fruition. We've always had to make do with what we can bag/steal/borrow/beg for. Dave basically gave us free-rein to explore his studio and a whole load of synths and my god, it was like playtime.”
   Busy: “We were kids in a candy store. So much amazing equipment we'd always wanted to play with but never been allowed to before. We'd just clamber around this gear, figuring it out, trying everything, seeing how far we could take it. After that initial period of pure freedom with all of this, it then became a process of seeing what worked, what was unnecessary, what we wanted to use. But without that sense of play to start with, I don't think the album would sound like it does.”

  The sound is open & wide-eyed yeah, but it's a precious fluidity, not some half-assed jam but seemingly painstaking.
   “Oh yeah” agrees Busy. “We know how we want things to sound and we will persist until we get it right. You can lose yourself in that process, never get things done – the music we used to play seemed so self-conscious even though it was supposedly about losing that consciousness. Now we've decided to just be honest to what we love and make out'n'out pop music it's simple and self-conscious but more free than it's ever been. Because we only have a few simple rules. We want to move the feet. And we want to make pop with massive hooks in it. And that forces you to be inventive in ways that more conventional, 'weird' music doesn't encourage.”

   The suckerpunch that truly lays you out from 'Dance Mother' is the lyrics, the words that slip into your memory and rotate themselves a home there like all the catchiest pop should. Words that slip from cosmic mystery to future-magik to a lovers most intimately charged threats within a couplet – very hip-hop in that untrammeled ability, and in their disconnected, random feel they seem to come from an MC's notebooks rather than a band's concentrated effort.
  Melissa: “We write all the time. We use it all the time. You're right, we don't write lyrics for specific tunes, we just pull from the thoughts and words we have.”
  Busy: “The words can frequently just be another instrument, another way of shaping the sound: the images in our lyrics are there to seal the feel of a track. A lot of lyrics at the moment are just about one subject, one person in one place. Ours move around because that's the way our minds work.”
  Melissa: “Music shouldn't be catching up with your head. It should be way ahead of everything else you experience.”
   And amen to such vaunting ambition in '09, such convinced innocence. Telepathe are blazing a trail, forcing the puzzle of pop back into the confusion and cataclysm it needs. Too much to get into here. Get into it where you are. And don't ever stop.


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