Release Date: Feb 3, 2009
Record label: BPitch Control
Charlie Cooper and Josh Eustis' second and third Telefon Tel Aviv albums are as different from one another as their first and second albums. Fahrenheit Fair Enough's fractured, melodic instrumentals morphed into crisp song form on Map of What Is Effortless, with vocalists and string arrangements helping to shape alternately jagged and sweeping productions into tense glitch/R&B torch songs. Following Map, Immolate Yourself -- released on Ellen Allien's Bpitch Control label -- increases the pensive energy and tension, with both conveyed through snapping beats, taut sequencer patterns, sheet upon sheet of textural elements, and vocals that come across as desperate and/or pained, even when barely audible beneath all the consuming sounds.
If you're seeking an album to keep out the winter chill, you could do worse than to wrap yourself up in Telefon Tel Aviv's sumptuous head music. Plush and dreamy, Immolate Yourself is a world away from the duo's previous glitchy, sparse aesthetic: emotionally direct to the point of shamelessness, but giving into its swooning surges of melody proves irresistible. Layers of gauzy textures swathe half-heard vocals, whose vagueness only magnifies their melancholic poignancy; echoing drum fills and yearning, perpetually ascending melodies add a touch of the epic to the brew.
At the time of writing this review, the Telefon Tel Aviv website simply consists of one page that reads "Charles Wesley Cooper III, April 12, 1977-January 22, 2009. " Cooper formed Telefon Tel Aviv with high school friend Joshua Eustis at the tail end of the 20th century, and their musical collaboration came to an unceremonious end just as this third full-length album was nearing release (the circumstances of Cooper's death are unclear). There’s a sadness deeply embedded in most of the music Cooper and Eustis made together, but the emotional ante is considerably raised on realizing this is the final outing for this particular incarnation of the band.
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.
The fact that the news broke about the shocking and tragic passing of Charles Cooper, one half of the innovative electronic duo Telefon Tel Aviv, on the week of the release of the group’s third proper album is a morbid coincidence that calls to mind the recent passing of Heath Ledger (in a similarly mysterious fashion) just months prior to the release of his unforgettable role in The Dark Knight. Cooper, who reportedly has suffered from a history of suicidal tendencies, was found dead at the young age of 31 on Thursday, January 22 after allegedly being last seen a couple of days prior in Chicago’s Wicker Park following a fight with his girlfriend. There is no word on exactly what the cause of the death was, though one can read the previous sentence and make up their own minds as to one possible endgame to such a tumultuous recipe of depression and confrontation.
This is a sad place for the story to end. Charlie Cooper, half of the New Orleans-via-Chicago duo Telefon Tel Aviv, died at age 31 in late January, less than two weeks before the domestic release of the group’s most gratifying record yet. Where their first two studio albums were polished but shadowy and a little bit obstinate, Immolate Yourself displays a band making peace with the idea of the pop song, learning to build grand, ambitious structures without neglecting the dark nuances hidden in every corner.
Two days after the release of their newest album, Telefon Tel Aviv lost half of its pair with the passing of Charles Cooper. A shocking development and one that left many perplexed and mystified, the cause is still unknown. But Cooper made it long enough to record one last, amazingly decorated and meticulously crafted album, Immolate Yourself, with his other half, Joshua Eustis.