Dat'R is a Portland-based duo who got their start in the indie-rock band Binary Dolls and have since moved onto dance music with their debut Turn Up The Ghosts. With beats culled from a traditional kit, the group spit out electronic pop music that's heavy on new wave groove, with a vocal style that falls somewhere in between LCD Soundsystem and Duran Duran.
With the help of a friend and MIT student, the duo actually controls parts of their songs in a live environment with video game controllers. It seems like sort of a gimmick, and yet it fits their loop-based, freewheeling music pretty well. Two-part opening track "Turn Up The Ghosts" sets the tone with thick bass warbles, sharp snare-cracked beats, and indie-rock tinged vocals from Matt Dabrowiak. The first two songs flirt with dance music, but never quite launch into it full on, but the rest of the album pretty much picks up the torch from there and runs with it.
Starting with "Yellow Cake," the group slams into a breakbeat-heavy bunch of songs that rolls with funk-fueled basslines and more semi-whiney vocals from Dabrowiak. With cycling, tweaked-out electronics and a fuzzed-out analogue bass, the track is easily one of the best on the album. In places (like the bursting-at-the-seams "Steam Room"), the duo hits on all cylinders, with tight rhythms that have tightly-coiled vocals and chirpy electronics that pull their hustling bits into a cohesive whole that blisters.
In other places, though, the album gets stuck into overly-long tracks that rumble through the same electro-glint for far too long. Both lyrically and musically, "!Um !Hot" cycles through very slight variations on the same theme and runs out of steam about halfway through, while "The Bloody Lump" churns through six and a half minutes of the same snare-blistered, low-end heavy sounds that inhabit a majority of the album (although the wacka-chicka guitars in the song are a nice touch). There are definitely some fine moments, but as a whole Turn Up The Ghosts is the sort of debut that sounds like it's still a work in progress. Based on reports of their fun live shows, it's probably a matter of the group finding which parts translate best to an album setting while leaving out some of the more indulgent (and repetitive) parts of their dual-joystick attack.