Telefon Tel Aviv are one of those electronic bands that i have been half following for years. I have a bunch of songs on dozens of compilations, and generally liked what i heard, but had not tracked down a record until now.
In general, Telefon Tel Aviv make mellow dreamy electro pop. They are the logical children of Depeche Mode and A.R. Kane, and there are actually several acts making this type of music: Project Skyward, Dead Leaf Echo, and even Ulrich Schnauss to a degree. EvilSponge tends to view this type of music fondly, and although it isn't always the most innovative thing, it is always pleasant.
On Immolate Yourself there are a couple of tunes that stand out as highpoints of this genre. The Birds is a slowly building, almost ambient piece, with a faint echo of voice and nicely burbling synths that tinkle in a manner very similar to what Ova Looven were doing on their last 12". Helen of Troy moves at a fast past with staccato rhythms that remind me a lot of the early hits of A-ha. It is a frenetic tune that would have packed the dance floor in 1985. The upbeat You Are the Worst Thing in the World is perhaps my favorite here. The vocal lines are echoed and slow, while layers of keys and synths and popping beats swirl around it.
Immolate Yourself came out in January, and it is a fun, likeable album. I must confess that a lot of the tracks tend to blur together into sonic wallpaper, but at their high points, Telefon Tel Aviv are fascinating.
But that is not why i decided to write this review. As i was doing research, i came across the news that 2 days after the record was released, one half of the band died. This is a two man act, and Charles Cooper (who along with Joshua Eustis comprised the band) disappeared and was later found dead. Details are sketchy, but apparently Cooper had threatened suicide before… No news articles i find specifically point to that as the cause of death, but it is implied and no other cause of death has been listed as far as i can see.
So view this as a cautionary tale, gentle readers. Even someone who seems on top of his game -- as Telefon Tel Aviv were when they recorded this record -- even someone on top can allow his life to fall apart completely and end in suicide. Be forewarned.
That is far too depressing a way to end a review though, so i will say this: Immolate Yourself is a recording that fans of electro post-rock will definitely want to hear. When Telefon Tel Aviv hit their high points, they stand out as among the best in the genre.