Friday night, the New Orleans indie electronic band uses synthesizers in the way it once used guitars.
Shark’s Teeth extensive body of work helps to explain the new It Transfers & Grows. Taken at face value, the album is attractively odd—electronic through and through, but the tempos and beats are almost retro in the way they shy away from the sort of EDM inflections that have become commonplace in contemporary dance pop. Instead, they’re sometimes heavy and unambitious, hardly the sort of rhythmic supercar that tends to burn rubber through most electronic music tracks. But the New Orleans indie electronic band’s earlier recordings were lo-fi and more conventional with an emphasis on guitars and sincere songs. As time passed, Vocoders began to tweak the vocals, moving them down a more technological path, and a guitars-for-keyboards swap followed naturally. Now, Shark’s Teeth music sounds almost entirely synth-based, but because it began as a band, Shark’s Teeth still sounds like one down to the drummer on It Transfers & Grows.
Shark’s Teeth will play an album-release show Friday night at Gasa Gasa, and all of that context only makes the album more compelling. It Transfers & Grows represents a band still in the process of exploring itself and its art. Because its history is of making expressive songs, everything on the album sound driven by song-oriented music and lyrics. Nothing on the album sounds as if it is driven solely by sonic novelty or market imperatives. The technology helps tailor the texture and mood to the melodies, but melodies drive. “Warm Legs” begins, “When I’m sure that I love you / it’s a shame that I can’t,” and that couplet along with a minor key progression create an atmosphere of wistful, hope-against-hope melancholy.
If It Transfers & Grows is reminiscent of anything, it’s Black Moth Super Rainbow, where the electronic elements are almost entirely about texture and atmosphere and have a psychedelic effect. Hip-hop is one of the hearts of Black Moth Super Rainbow, but that’s not the case with Shark’s Teeth. Pop is at the core of It Transfers & Grows, but classic pop. Not Rihanna or anybody topping the charts this decade. Even in that context though, Shark’s Teeth remains wary of pop in the way that indie rockers often are. That ambivalence gives the album an underlying drama beyond the songs themselves.