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CD Feature/ Telefon Tel Aviv: "Immolate Yourself"

img  Tobias

It has by now become completely impossible to write about this album objectively. On January 29th, Charlie Cooper III died unexpectedly, leaving his family and friends in pain and the future of the band he had co-founded and painstakingly nurtured in tatters. The Telefon Tel Aviv homepage has since turned into a black, single-paged obituary and communication to the outside world has been reduced to a heartfelt thank-you note by remaining member Joshua Eustis to all of the fans who expressed their condolences and support. For the past two weeks, probably, more songs by the duo have been spun on turntables and CD players all over the world than ever before. But for Eustis, music is the last thing on his mind.

As a listener, the unrealness of the tragedy is only surpassed by the life-affirming quality of „Immolate yourself“. Its title is an in-joke referring to their fascination for „long, ridiculous, monosyllabic names“, the overall production an obvious and confident change of direction and tracks are energetic, to-the-point and catchy. Even though there is a certain Goth-factor running through the dense and nocturnally illuminated arrangements, the overall tone is one of optimism and of exploration: Except for one or two more pensive and withdrawn statements, the album is marked by quick changeovers, stylistic diversity, flexible melodic action and a remarkable contrast between the upbeat metrum of the beats and the rather pensive nature of the lyrics.

Naturally, and in the absence of interviews to provide for explanations, these last words will dominate the discussion for the next few months. Mostly gyrating around short phrases, which attain an instable balance between obliqueness and obviousness as they are repeated over a perpetually shifting backdrop of microthemes and several intertwining harmonic sheets, they are seldomly as tangible as on title track, which, according to the band themelves, deals with setting yourself on fire, or on the magnetic and thematically titled ode to unrequited love „You are the worst thing in the world“: „I know you are the ocean after the storm has come to stay/ I know you are the sunlight after the sun has gone away/ (...) You know I'm not a bad man/ But truth is the hardest thing to see“ And yet, looking for hints in this maze of allusions and metaphors makes will hardly lead to unrefutable conclusions.

What's more, it would be disrespectful to the one thing untainted by the personal drama of Cooper's death: The music on „Immolate Yourself“. If it was the declared intention of Telefon Tel Aviv to break away from their self-perceived routine, then the record must be considered a major success. Their minute attention to detail and their ideal of balance and harmony inside a glistening, polytimbral texture of interlocking grooves, rhythmical sidethoughts, flourishing leads and layers of micronoises has remained intact and been injected with a degree of  pointed directness and club-oriented physicality. The looped framework of opener „The Birds“ rises on the wings of a soft drone and is gradually adorned by disco-sequencers and a momentous electro-stomp only to be shaken, stirred and spat out at the other end of the dancefloor. The pure and simple bliss of first single „Helen of Troy“, meanwhile, infuses a sweet 80s twang with a sense of new millenium melancholia.

Vocals often remain burried underneath the maelstrom of the music, as though retreating to some quiet place to make sense of it all. Quite a lot is happening at the same time, with various, occasionally antipolar lines of development running in and against sync. And yet, the band maintain a clear sense of their goal throughout the tracks and the album as a whole, which thrives on an effective cocktail of emotional ups and downs and charges between gripping songs and more atmospheric tunes like „Mostly Translucent“. It is an album which is about letting go and having fun and as such, it seems to thrive on subjective impressions rather than analysis. There will come a time when it will be possible to write more objectively about „Immolate Yourself“. But until that day, the music needs noone to speak in its place.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Telefon Tel Aviv
Homepage: Telefon Tel Aviv at MySpace
Homepage: bpitch control Records

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