Telefon Tel Aviv: Remixes Compiled

If someone were to do a Blindfold test and hear Remixes Compiled, it wouldn't surprise me if the subject in question guessed the album to be a particularly mellow set of Telefon Tel Aviv (Joshua Eustis and Charlie Cooper) originals featuring occasional guest vocalists. This imagined outcome is telling on two counts: it indicates how thoroughly the duo refashions a given track in its own image (in some cases, only an original's chord progression remains), plus it recognizes the collection's unanimity of tone. That it is generally mellow may be off-putting to some, though the tracks themselves are hardly so. The dreamy ballad “All Around” by Bebel Gilberto, for instance, is given a very appealing, wide-screen handling (the duo's most conspicuous treatment being the echoing snare hit) that complements her sultry vocal delivery. There's no need to be scared away by the inclusion of an unreleased Nine Inch Nails remix, either, as there's no sign of Trent Reznor's usual angst; instead, Telefon Tel Aviv turns The Fragile's “Even Deeper” into a sumptuous instrumental paradise. Being chronologically sequenced, the 2000 treatment affords an early glimpse into the group's style (in fact, it was the first song recorded under the Telefon Tel Aviv name) which already sounds fully-formed. The duo's penchant for spacious, dub-inflected production, slo-mo funk beats, and meticulous electronic detailing is all here, as it will be throughout much of what follows.

In Telefon Tel Aviv's hands, Midwest Product's “A Genuine Display” and Oliver Nelson's “Stolen Moments” become tight exercises in electronic soul-funk and string-heavy, orchestral dramatics, respectively. With Tortoise drummer John Herndon participating, the second half of the “Last Supper” mix of Ammon Contact's “BBQ Plate” resembles a U2 jam, especially when echoing guitars chime alongside the rhythm section's robust attack. Some songs are credited to Eustis only, including Apparat's “Komponent,” which is given a swooning electropop mix, American Analog Set's “The Green Green Grass,” which Eustis toughens up without losing the song's melodicism, and Nitrada's “Fading Away,” where supple textures enhance the wistful melancholy so nicely established by Kaye Brewster's vocal. At least in one case, the interpretation doesn't equal the original (even with its epic climaxes, Telefon Tel Aviv's ‘3 am' treatment of “Knock Me Down Girl” can't compete with Slicker's irresistibly funky version) but most of the interpretations are more than credible reimaginings. The major downside to Remixes Compiled doesn't concern the material itself, but the fact that its release means that Telefon Tel Aviv fans will have to wait even longer for the ‘true' follow-up to 2004's Map of What is Effortless.

July 2007