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Telefon Tel Aviv - Map of What is Effortless

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Artist: Telefon Tel Aviv

Album: Map of What is Effortless

Label: Hefty

Review date: Jan. 19, 2004

Telefon Tel Aviv’s Josh Eustis and Charlie Cooper are lush producers who also hold their own in the songwriting category. Their 2001 debut for Hefty Records, Fahrenheit Fair Enough, combines the soundscapes of Delarosa and Asora with the song structure of Michael Jackson to create a record that is simultaneously stimulating and accessible. The album is not experimental – the techniques are tried and true –but with all the granular synthesis and Pro Tools micro-editing, the end result is far from your typical pop album.

Fahrenheit Fair Enough fans may or may not have been put off by the group's 2002 EP for Hefty’s Immediate Action series. The opening track featured vocals by L’Altra’s Lindsay Anderson, whose beautiful voice began to steer the group away from IDM and toward the realm of easy listening. The following three tunes on the 12” fortunately steered them back.

With their second full length, Telefon Tel Aviv have reversed paths once again, this time deeper down the road of accessibility. Digital soul or smooth electronica? On Map of What is Effortless, Eustis and Cooper appear more interested in penetrating AC radio stations than maintaining their indie electronica fanbase.

So if Map of What is Effortless is an adult contemporary record, then we should judge it as such, and in that case, it’s passable. The production is excellent. Eustis and Cooper bring in a number of outside musicians, including the entire Loyola University Chamber Orchestra on five of the nine tunes. Six of the tunes feature R&B vocals. The vocals alternate between the Ron Isley-meets-Justin Timberlake stylings of LA songwriter Damon Aaron and the sing-speak words of Lindsay Anderson.

While Fahrenheit Fair Enough was inspired by Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the impetus for the new record seems a cross between Marvin Gaye’s Here My Dear, Prince’s 1999, and Curtis Mayfield’s Sweet Exorcist. The idea was to make a record the “implemented electronics, song-writing, live playing, and a huge production, [but was] still a pop record” explains Cooper. Foregoing their cred as IDM artists and opting instead to mimic Prince, Telefon Tel Aviv have made a record that is nothing if not daring, but they may have alienated some of their early fans in the process.

By William Mitsakos

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