Review Summary: Immolate Yourself is the year's first good electronica album, but it could have been so much more.
Way back in 2001, Chicago based Telefon Tel Aviv turned heads with their debut record, Fahrenheit Fair Enough
. The album was heralded as an engaging record that bridged together the best of ambient music and IDM, while still maintaining an air of originality all the same. Its slightly-less-acclaimed-but-still-well-received follow up, Map of What Is Effortless
, saw the duo (Charles Cooper (RIP) and Joshua Eustis) explore other electronic styles and soulful overtones without completely abandoning the sound they had on its predecessor. It was, as they say, a classic example of two artists reinventing their style, and coming away with a refreshing output.
If Map of What Is Effortless
saw Telefon Tel Aviv reinvent the IDM-based sound off their debut album, than Immolate Yourself
breaks away from it. Oh, there is certainly still a degree of pleasant ambience intertwined through the eleven track record, as album opener "The Birds" so eloquently reveals. A light, carefree ambience opens the song, which gradually escalates into a catharsis of beats and synth melodies coming at you from every direction. Yet, what is most impressive about this seemingly chaotic exchange is the sereneness that exists through the entirety of the track. "Your Mouth" and "M" continue in similar fashion, placing special emphasis on soothing shrouds of casual ambience, while maintaining a semblance of accessibility and pop aesthetics. And though these songs do not necessarily contribute anything new to electronica, they're extremely appealing all the same.
In "Helen of Troy", however, we get the first glimpse of Telefon Tel Aviv's newfound indulgence in electro-pop. Whereas Immolate Yourself
's first three tracks stressed much more controlled atmospheres, "Helen of Troy" as well as the likes of "Stay Away From Being Maybe" and "Made a Tree on The Wold" conform to a more urgent, danceable styling. Excluding, perhaps, the darker, industrial influenced "Your Every Idol", the middle of Immolate Yourself
plays out in an upbeat manner, but while they each manage to sound rather pleasant, they're somewhat lacking. To put it simply, long stretches of Immolate Yourself
feel directionless. It's never bad per say, but it sounds as though the album is on autopilot. The layers of synthesizer and occasional backing vocal don't mesh as well as they should, and the results end up sounding somewhat plain.
And then, just like that, Telefon Tel Aviv somehow wakes up and makes things interesting again. As "Your Every Idol" segues into "You Are the Worst Thing in the World", the atmosphere of Immolate Yourself
undergoes a dramatic change. Like "The Birds", there's so much going on within the track's expansive, sweeping dynamics (especially the vocals, which play more of a secondary or even tertiary role in the mix), yet the prevailing mood is far more downtempo and relaxing than one would expect. It's a pretty remarkable track, and along with the title track, almost makes you forget about the previous five songs.
In Immolate Yourself
, Telefon Tel Aviv has the year's first good electronica album. But in spite of this, I feel like there just could have been more. The record kicks off with a bang, and then levels off just as quickly, and though it's never bad
, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Most disappointingly of all, it's eight songs and thirty-five minutes of music before the listener is actually treated to a genuinely superb outing. With that in mind, Immolate Yourself
is a finely produced record, and still features a good chunk of material worth listening to, even if it doesn't exactly stack up with the duo's previous efforts.