Telefon Tel Aviv: Immolate Yourself

By: Greg Gargiulo

Through suffering and strife, hardship and heartbreak, madness, mourning and mysteries that might just never actually make sense, in all these tattered worlds and troubled doors of mind, by some power, music always continues, music always prevails. Nothing rings more true right now for Telefon Tel Aviv than this. Shortly before the release of their third studio album, Immolate Yourself (out February 9 on BPitch Control), one half of the group, Charles Cooper, was found dead on January 22, 2009 at the age of 31. While specific details surrounding the tragic incident remain unclear, the stunning impact of Cooper's passing on his family, friends, TTA's other half (Joshua Eustis) and the greater music community has profoundly shaken many corners in the wake of the news. With the loss, Eustis recently decided after much deliberation to continue touring as Telefon Tel Aviv with close friend Fredo Nogueira filling in, however, the group's sound and existence will no doubt be dramatically altered without 50-percent of its foundation. What will persevere untouched are a trio of rich electronic albums each as bold as they are unique, the final one of which - Immolate - uses its medium to convey a world of darkened alleys and shadowy figures that oddly feel comforting and familiar, as though you've known them in one form or another your whole life.

From all angles, Immolate comes across with a far darker spirit than the band's prior two releases, as an eerie, sometimes creepy sensation sucks you in and lays itself out. TTA's frequent use of thunder-and-lightning drum mechanics, heavy-striking synths and consuming, whirling effects are all still heavily dominant, yet are held for longer or tinkered with accordingly to give them a grayer shade in their movements. The vocals that defined Map of What is Effortless return, only they're much more drowned-out and distant in most instances. On "Your Mouth" voices can be heard in the cavernous background of the exploding drumbeat and haunting strings, but they're muffled and left to a secondary level of attention, as though pleading for liberation.

Many of the vocals, not to mention the sequences that surround them, have a characteristically '80s feel to them not unlike The Cure's Robert Smith or even portions of Depeche Mode, with contemplative, echoing phrasings layered on top of popping beats, cracks and booms. Electro-Arabic "You Are The Worst Thing in the World" and the combo of "M" and "Helen of Troy" display these elements prominently, with the latter rolling and bubbling brilliantly along, sounding like a tortured love song that's no less passionate than the unblemished variety. There's a permeating aura of tension and repression throughout the disc, but that's not to say it's without its brighter, uplifting spots, too. Though lurking in many of the same ways as the rest of the album, "Stay Away From Being Maybe" features lofty handclaps and an exotic, ascending riff that jumps and bumps in a cheery manner, inviting dance steps that would appear only slightly out of place to the average bystander.

The final installment of Telefon Tel Aviv as Charles Cooper and Joshua Eustis has no shortage of an emotion, most of a somber tone, a few others a bit more elated. It's emotion of varying degrees that saturates every motion and aspect of its makeup, but felt decidedly in every note. Immolate captivates relentlessly and makes no apologies for its confronting essence, for it was designed as such. And for all its startling, yet strangely calming abilities, the disc can forever be used as a therapeutic tool, however it may fit into one's own shifting climate.

JamBase | Ruminative
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[Published on: 4/28/09]

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