I Am the World Trade Center's debut is an odd duck -- a dance album that appeals to club kids and English teachers alike. Dance fiends can love Out of the Loop for its hyper pastiche of '80s electronica and homemade beats, while professorial types can appreciate having a shining example of that difficult distinction between an irony and a paradox.
To wit: It is ironic that a band as small as I Am the World Trade Center (population: one girl, one guy, and a laptop) lives in such a gargantuan name. IATWTC also embodies one of music's dirty little paradoxes: namely, that the best albums in any genre are usually created outside of it.
Often, the codification of a scene snuffs out its true spirit. Dogmatic fans, with their intricate demarcations of punk/not punk and trance/not trance, end up killing the sense of adventure and rule-breaking that drew them to the music in the first place. The paradox tends to mean that musical trailblazers frequently are dilettantes working far from their scene's epicenter.
Which brings us back to I Am the World Trade Center. The Athens, Ga., duo is micro-royalty in the world of indie pop, with IATWTC mix-master Dan Geller serving as co-poobah of Kindercore Records, the label best known for cutesy guitar bands like Of Montreal and Geller's own act Kincaid. IATWTC's pop pedigree would seem to make it an unlikely candidate for crafting one of the year's best dance records -- which, paradoxically, makes it the ideal candidate for the job. Confused? Luckily, Out of the Loop's first galloping track, "Metro," makes IATWTC's ambitious intentions clear: Geller's cascading blips and ratcheting bleeps do calisthenics to a thumpalicious Manchester beat, as Amy Dykes' singsong vocals steer through the mix like a shy party guest weaving her way toward the door.
Throughout the record, Dykes' robo-pretty singing and synthy melodies meld seamlessly with Geller's dated keyboard sounds. The duo's retro electro pop violins and fake piano wheezes keep things both kitschy and exuberant, and songs such as "Look Around You," "Flute Loops," and "September" inspire serious dance floor-freaking.
Like Fatboy Slim, Geller displays an immaculate sense of pacing by dropping layers out, notching the EQ levels up, and shifting the loops down. The dance music cognoscenti may blanch at such obvious ploys -- as well as Geller's occasionally awkward mixing and unfashionably gluttonous use of samples. But those who put danceability before dogma will appreciate the way IATWTC blissfully ignores house rules.