New band of the day – No 967: Jensen Sportag

The aural equivalent of satin sheets in a boudoir, this Nashville duo's immaculate electro-pop puts the sin into Synclavier

Hometown: Nashville.

The lineup: Austin Wilkinson, Benji Craig.

The background: It's just as well that Mike Skinner sat in as guest editor last week and chose the new bands. In a way, he saved us from total shame. Because we discovered this duo last Monday and, had we been able to write about them then, our copy would have mainly comprised a bunch of exclamations and emoticons, and by now we'd be sitting here rereading it and cringing.

Jensen Sportag really are that good, although even we, still under their spell seven days later, can see they won't be to everyone's taste. Two guys from Nashville, they appear to be involved in a serious attempt to reclaim smooth(ie) muso proficiency and varnished virtuosity from rolled-up-jacket-sleeves technicians, much as Palladium were a few years back. Only this is way, way better. Imagine Level 42 jamming with Washed Out in hypnagogic heaven. There is crackle and hiss on their new EP, Pure Wet, some of the beats are of the stuttery, postdubstep sort, the breathy vocals are processed and the production gauzy, thereby placing the pair in an aesthetic context even as they step out of an ancient historical one. But mainly what Jensen Sportag offer is a hipster take on 80s winebar muzak. They've even got a song called Jareaux that must surely have been deliberately titled because it sounds like Al Jarreau at his most exquisitely unctuous backed by Toro Y Moi, that other current outfit seemingly involved in a bid to make "great playing", of the jazz-funky variety, a viable proposition once more.

They're apparently named after a Danish tennis player, not that we can find any mention of him anywhere, making us suspect that they are, indeed, Scandinavian themselves – their R&B-dusted, high-gloss electro-pop is so immaculate, it feels theoretical, like most of the best Scandinavian pop. It's bound to be conceptual – one of them was Ariel Pink's driver on tour in 2006, and Pink returned the favour by singing on and providing the cover art for their 500-limited debut album later that year. We haven't managed to track down that album yet, but an EP from around the same time is way more bleepy and 8-bit glitchy than the current stuff, with titles such as My Home PC and Japanese Zombie Schoolgirls.

Those old Jensen songs bear a similar relation to their new material as does early Scritti Politti's anarcho squat indie to their later airbrushed falsetto disco. We're not sure if the Jensen boys in the intervening period experienced a life-threatening illness leading to a similar crisis of faith and ultimately a radical change of musical direction, as did Scritti's Green Gartside in 1980-1, but something must have happened to suddenly make them record music like this. We haven't heard basslines this propulsive since the heyday of Heatwave and Hi-Tension, nor beats this sublime since 1984-5, that brief time post-disco but pre-techno.

By all means buy their new EP, but see if you can also find their previous one, Jackie – the title track is a masterclass in sinuous slap-bass and Victim is some dream summit meeting between Daft Punk and Prince, with Jan Hammer on keyboards. They've got a wealth of great materal – Power Sergio, from another EP, could be Roger Troutman duetting with Jacko. Power of Rio is Phoenix-worthy. But it's the latest EP, from the excellent Cascine label, that features the mellifluous motherlode. On the title track, the synths are ectoplasmic, the vocals a hologram of yearning and desire. Mapquest is an OMG moment, sheer perfection. Jareaux is the aural equivalent of satin sheets in a designer boudoir. And on Everything Good the bassmanship is bewilderingly creative – somewhere, Bernard Edwards is smiling. We know we are.

The buzz: "Exquisite in quality and design. This is pop music deluxe" –

The truth: It would be easier to list the music of the last five years that's as good as this: Washed Out's Belong and Drake's The Resistance, basically.

Most likely to: Make you pure wet.

Least likely to: Appeal to zombie schoolgirls, Japanese or otherwise.

What to buy: The Pure Wet EP is released tomorrow by Cascine.

File next to: Phoenix, Junior Boys, Boy Crisis, Scritti Politti.


Tuesday's new band: Grouplove.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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