Over the last decade, dance-punk went from an exciting and ecstatic blend of genres to a rote series of gestures, stale and regrettably ubiquitous. So, then, to hear the Los Angeles-based group Eagle and Talon described as dance-punk doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. In the case of Eagle and Talon’s In Manila, that lack of confidence would, blessedly, be unwarranted. The five songs on this EP succeed more often than one would have the right to expect, in part due to some interesting and unexpected influences.
This group, a duo composed of Kim Talon and Alice Talon, has a fairly minimal approach: keyboards abound, the rhythms are suitable for dancing, and there’s a yearning quality to the vocals. Swooning horns materialize a minute into “For the Bond,” lending it a very specific nostalgia and — more importantly — allowing bits of dissonance to creep in to the mix. “Ruen Pair” begins by evoking Republic-era New Order, but quickly segues into a moody restraint, a stylistic richness that recalls the Broadcast singles collected on Work and Non Work.
Not everything reinvigorates an exhausted genre so well. The noisier “Modified My Knife” throws a few different components — from concrete feedback to a more minimal guitar/drums/vocals arrangement — but never quite feels consistent. The feeling one gets is not unlike listening to a three-minute summation of Blonde Redhead’s discography — an interesting stylistic choice, but one that doesn’t offer the listener much as bait. And for all that does work on “For the Bond,” it suffers from some uneven vocal delivery.
But given that In Manila is a dance-friendly post-punk record that it never outlasts its welcome, the overall impression is still a pleasant surprise.