XLR8R has a long history with Lazer Sword. In the interest of full disclosure, both of the duo’s members, Low Limit (a.k.a. Bryant Rutledge) and Lando Kal (a.k.a. Antaeus Roy), used to work for XLR8R in some capacity. That said, several years have gone by since then, years that have seen both fellows abandon their San Francisco home base for the greener pastures of Los Angeles and Berlin, respectively. And although the pair continued to periodically join forces to tour after Rutledge’s and Roy’s relocations, the mixed response to the group’s self-titled debut album—not to mention Lando Kal’s recent surge as a solo producer (check his latest singles on Rush Hour and Hotflush for proof)—had left the future of Lazer Sword somewhat clouded. Then came word that the duo inked with Modeselektor‘s Monkeytown imprint, prompting two major questions. What exactly would new Lazer Sword material sound like? More importantly, would it be any good?

As it turns out, the simplest answers to these questions are “different” and an ethusiastic “yes.” While “Sounds Sane” and “Klock” are not a complete departure from Lazer Sword’s prior output, both tunes represent a major leap forward for an outfit previously saddled with sonic descriptors like “future blap,” “turbo crunk,” and, perhaps worst of all, “lazer bass.” If Lazer Sword’s past was firmly rooted in slapping hip-hop beats—think chunky synths and aural maximalism—the duo’s present offers a sleek and mature brand of stripped-down, albeit potent, dance music that takes equal cues from ’80s electro and genre-bending UK futurism.

“Sounds Sane” is the funkier of the single’s two offerings, a track built around a pitch-bent, come-hither vocoder vocal and filled in by snappy vintage drum sounds, angular synths, and some catchy house chords. The flip side, “Klock,” might be even better. Once again built upon a foundation of classic drum-machine sounds, Lazer Sword’s tune maintains plenty of white space in the low end while weaving in warbling synth melodies and some sultry diva snippets. While the formula isn’t entirely original, the ace production separates these efforts from much of the bass-music pack. Furthermore, Rutledge and Roy are smart enough to retain just enough of their old, hip-hop-flavored bravado to keep things sufficiently funky. It’s subtle, but there is still an edge to what Lazer Sword creates, and it makes all the difference.