rguably the first IDM record ever, the Artificial Intelligence compilation depicts a robot sitting in a leather armchair with Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd albums laying by his side. Warp, the label that released the compilation, soon became the torchbearers of the genre. At first, the compilation signified a new form of dance music- one that coupled a 70s psychedelic sounds of Pink Floyd with the techno-futurism of Kraftwerk’s Mensch-Maschine. One in which the dance floor was relegated to second place, behind home listening- and the intense contemplation of the sounds emanating from the speakers, rather than the one shot hedonism of typical dance floor fare. Built for repeated listening and home listening, IDM took a different tack to dance music; and eventually has become a catch-all term for all experimental electronic music that is released nowadays. From the abrasiveness of Fennesz to the Fischer Price fetishism of Plone; it’s all under what has become an umbrella term that has been stripped of its original meaning.
What has seemingly been lost in all of this, however, is the pure strain of IDM. A combination of Pink Floyd’s ambience and Kraftwerk’s domination of the static beat. There are some adherents to the original style, using vintage gear and outmoded thought, but no great advancement of the genre has occurred- allowing for psych and electronic to intertwine in a confluence of song. Enter Telefon Tel Aviv.
In an inspiring mix of sweet guitar melody, pleasant synth work, and a very solid beat structure; the group’s debut album Fahrenheit Fair Enough is a well crafted album that is sickly sweet. The songs roll by in a very pleasant manner, some better than others, with the smug knowledge that they are crafted precisely as they should be, without fail.
The opener “Fahrenheit Fair Enough” mixes a short keyboard driven melody with a somewhat busy percussion track, all undercut by a very heavy bassline that holds up the proceedings. Halfway through the bass takes over the melody and allows the listener a delectable bridge portion to the song. It’s supremely crafted and ultimately shows a large degree of talent. It sounds as though it would fit nicely in an Artificial Intelligence 2001 compilation.
There are other definite highlights on the record. “John Thomas on the Inside Is Nothing but Foam” mixes nice post rock inspired guitar with a steady beat to create a head nodding piece, while “Fahrenheit Far Away” closes the album with a beautiful outro that perhaps should have been extended to a full song.
It is between these highlights that the album loses steam. It’s not that the songs aren’t well composed or even pleasurable to listen to- it’s that they all begin to sound very familiar and deriviative sounding. It seems that Telefon Tel Aviv have worked from the same template on each song to create blissful masterpieces, but it’s much like cotton candy- pleasurable, but you’re left in the end with nothing in your mouth of substance with only a few bites leaving any lasting impression.
Very close in sound to the Savath and Savalas project of Scott Herren, Telefon Tel Aviv have crafted an interesting debut record, which easily shows that they are a talented duo. What they chose to do with this talent- progress as IDM, as a genre, has; or crafting the same blissfully ambient meets dance floor ditties- is up to them.