Feb 6, 2009

Telefon Tel Aviv's big hair sound is shrouded in darkness

Edit: This album is mentioned in my top ten electronica albums of 2009

I want to describe Telefon Tel Aviv's new album, heralded as something to watch in my 2009 preview, as a collection of "driving pop anthems."

Don't get me wrong: they're not the Pet Shop Boys. They're not singing glorious ditties about naughty sex for a start. But there's something super-electro-pop about Telefon's third album, titled Immolate Yourself.

Spiralling opener The Birds' punches the air with eighties snares, an energetic stadium keyboard line and breathy vocals. Helen Of Troy should have its own big hair video and rolled up jacket sleeves..  Stay Away From Being Maybe steals the bassline from Bill Withers' Lovely Day and fires it into space.  Yet, it's all muzzled and shrouded in dark contemplation.

The deeper you push into the album, the more their sound hits a more familiar skewy electronica beat, with layer upon layer of melodies that ultimately lead nowhere. And that's the flaw with Telefon Tel Aviv. The production sparkles, the new nods to bands like Kraftwerk are a massive improvement, but they're never going to hit you in the face like, for example, Apparat or Wisp.

It's insubstantial... but it's a really pleasing, cotton wool, uplifting, dark and wet insubstantial.

And so to the electronic elephant in the room: the death of one half of Telefon Tel Aviv.  Charlie Cooper (in yellow, above) went missing after an argument with his girlfriend, but beyond that, the details are sketchy. They should stay sketchy in respect to his family and friends.

If this is the end of Telefon Tel Aviv, then Immolate Yourself is the sound of a band reaching their suitably melancholic climax. In the words of one commenter on Telefon's Myspace page, the "group put New Orleans (and the US in general) on the IDM map. Heck of an accomplishment."

IDM, for the uninitiated, is the name for most of the music you read about on this blog. And its historic connection with New Orleans is, well, zilch. It has been a British-led genre, so you could say America doesn't "do" IDM.

Except, it did. And for a while at least, its name was Telefon Tel Aviv.


steve said...

I'm curious to hear this one, so thanks for the review. Still, I'm hesitant after being so thoroughly disappointed by their second release. Loved the first however.

As for America and IDM, there's a goldmine of excellent stuff to be found from the states - Proswell, Marumari, Freescha, and Casino Versus Japan being just the tip of the iceberg.

Fat Roland said...

Yeah, there are gems that I probably neglect on this blog. A piece on US IDM could be an idea...

As for TTA, I do think they've got away from the guest vocalist thing you mentioned on a comment a while back, but no I think their debut is better. No. Not better. Just different. This is a progression.