With all the new, modern architectural marvels dotting the Indian landscape, like fancy-shmancy shopping malls with neon night clubs on the top floor, it’s only fitting that the Indian soundscape evolves to reflect its environment. Teddy Boy Kill leaves Talvin Singh sounding like a colonial era courthouse in comparison, and MIDIval PunditZ like the theka on the corner.
This debut album opens impressively with dancefloor anthem ‘Tonic’, instantly reminiscent of Black Strobe and latter-day New Order. Suspenseful crescendos and dominatrix dynamics prompt frenetic body movements. Toymob’s sing-song beat poetry brings back sultry memories of a first lover’s sweet whispered nothings; meanwhile AudioPervert fries up distorted synthesizers like that first rush of pure MDMA fries up brain cells. TBK represents that hazy realm where ravers mingle with hippies in secret fields of universal love. This vibe is epitomized on the second track, ‘Traveling’, a smashing, banging electronic ode to escaping the hustle and bustle of the city, superbly evoking the indomitable tech-soul spirit of Swayzak. I can’t wait to sing along to this song en route to the mountains then carry the torch back to the city with next track, ‘Berliner’.
In fact, these first three tracks are comparable in quality to critically acclaimed output from renown Berlin labels like !K7 and Get Physical. The same combination of hard progressive house anchored by soft, simple melodic vocals is employed as exemplified by folks like Trentemoller and Tiefschwarz. It’s a great formula, and so it’s quite unfortunate when TBK completely abandons it for the rest of the album, veering well off the path to the hilltop rave for extended forays into creepy cesspools of poppy, downtempo electro-funk a la Moloko or even Massive Attack. The duet with female vocals in ‘Trash’ seems like a good idea in theory, but ends up sounding forced and awkward in the mix. Similarly, the Radiohead sample from OK Computer that forms the hook for ‘Subterra’ piques one’s interest on first listen, but on repeated listens, this bluesy snoozer throws up red flags, prompting fast forward. The jazzy pop of ‘Josefina’ swings dangerously close to Justin Timberlake territory, although the Air-like Rhodes doodling towards the end does make an effort at redemption.
However, all is not lost. The synthetic sitars and blippy moog arpeggios of ‘Face the Future’ fuel a moody ambience with soulful vocal harmonizing that is soon crashed into by a funky Fatboy Slim-esque breakbeat, catapulting the song to the status of a hidden track on Moby’s Play. ‘Private Eye’, although similar to ‘Trash’, assimilates a jazz fusion ambiance into a relatively uptempo, electrified Portishead tune with a neo-soul sheen, although the guitar solo does bring us back into the province of AR Rahman, which, if you think about it, is really Phish or Grateful Dead style prog-rock jamming for the digital generation. Finally, album closer ‘Immortal’ is the rare electro-ballad that hits quite a few of the right soft spots, good for spacing out as well as self-contemplation.
TBK have crafted a debut album that touches on diverse styles within the electronica genre, and infused their idiosyncratic perspectives onto them. Occasionally hit, occasionally miss, the TBK sound is undeniably dangerous; be forewarned that this music may incline the listener to commit regrettable actions, like hitting on your best friend’s spouse, or quitting your job to dance your life away.