- On "Two 0 One," the first track on John Tejada's new album, a graceful melody drapes itself over a steady house kick and snare, while an array of synths billow in the distance. At once ethereal and precise, it's archetypal stuff from the veteran LA producer, as is much of Signs Under Test, an album that shows Tejada using his well-honed studio acumen to transcendent effect.
Signs Under Test is typical Tejada in a more prosaic way as well: its titles. Tejada's always had a thing for sci-fi-influenced track names, dating back at least to "Prism War" and "Solar Eyes," both from 1997's Little Green Lights And Four Inch Faders. He goes to town on this album, with titles like "Cryptochrome" (a photoreceptor that helps guide circadian rhythms), "Vaalbara" (an early supercontinent) and "R.U.R." (the 1920 Karel Čapek play that introduced the word "robot" to the English language).
Much of Signs Under Test is imbued with a kind of resigned romanticism, one that's greatly enhanced by Tejada's sonic template. The songs have a haunted, distant feel, and even the album's poppier moments are touched with melancholy. Tracks like "Beacht," "Rubric" and "Endorphins" mix pure-pleasure hooks with a tinge of heartache, evoking memories of late-'80s Depeche Mode.
As he tends to do, Tejada occasionally trades the four-to-the-floor kick for something more syncopated. This time, electro is his alternate groove of choice. "Vaalbara," with its electrofunk rhythm anchoring a contemplative melody, is a gentle treat; "Y 0 Why," which goes in a more doomy direction, has sharper claws. But even that track swirls in the poignant bliss that buoys Signs Under Test, a beautiful collection of tunes as striking as they are subtle.
01. Two 0 One
02. Y 0 Why
11. Heave In Sight