The title of the most recent Atmosphere album, May 2023’s So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously, evokes the multiversal storytelling that’s recently vaulted into the mainstreamcconsciousness. With their latest effort, the irrepressible Talk Talk EP, the Minneapolis legends dart across threads of space-time to grab hold of the one where Slug and Ant became titans of the electro-rap that was foundational to their youths. By evoking acts like Kraftwerk and Egyptian Lover, Atmosphere makes visions of the future from four decades ago seem new once again, the relentless forward churn of technological optimism reimagined as an endless loop with irresistible drums.
The genesis of the Talk Talk EP was the session for a song of the same name that appeared on So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously. A collaboration with Lifter Puller alum Bat Flower, the song “Talk Talk” exists alongside electro classics in an uncanny valley that’s been warped into a sweaty nightclub, at once vaguely alien and deeply human. Enamored with the song’s outcome, Slug and Ant returned for a longer exploration of the sound, to mesmeric results. The pulsing “Rotary Telephone,” where the TV antennas seem tuned to a world just slightly askew from ours, thrives on the tension between Slug’s careening vocals and the song’s taught structure—form matched perfectly with content. And on “Hear Hear,” the struggle to make human connections is revealed as a beautiful one.
For all its well-documented roots in disco and R&B, rap’s connection to the electronic music of the 1970s and ‘80s is a core part of its DNA. The Talk Talk EP is one of the clearest articulations of this truth to emerge in many years, a testament to the communal power of programmed sound. For proof, look no further than “Traveling Forever,” the haunting missive that closes out the record. Images flash: of police knees on necks, of prying cameraphones, another empty hotel room indistinguishable from the last. “I never got to learn how to dance for you,” Slug raps, pointedly. “I don’t know whether or not that’s an attribute.” A chill runs down your spine but the skull at its top keeps nodding.