Music

Telefon Tel Aviv: Fahrenheit Fair Enough

With a bonus disc of unreleased electronic experimentations, the reissue of Fahrenheit Fair Enough is a document of forward-thinking genre wars that will fascinate one's faculties and promote a still, meditative awareness.


Telefon Tel Aviv

Fahrenheit Fair Enough

Label: Ghostly
US Release Date: 2016-12-02
UK Release Date: 2016-12-02
Amazon
iTunes

If I were to describe Telefon Tel Aviv's debut album Fahrenheit Fair Enough as "meditational" music, one might mistakenly assume that I meant it dismissively. As facets of Eastern culture and spirituality been appropriated, diluted, and bastardized in Western culture over at least the past 50 years or so, the kinds of music many have unfortunately come to associate with practices like meditation, mindfulness, or yoga are typically caricatured over-performances of serenity and calmness. The kind of music you might also hear in a massage parlor, the thinking goes; music that emphasizes "relaxation" above all else. We have a tragic legacy of clichéd and cheesy New Age releases to thank for this phenomenon.

Reissued for its 15th anniversary, Fahrenheit Fair Enough hits some of these same notes, and it remains a fundamentally pleasant and undisturbed listen. You certainly could play it during a yoga class filled with white hipsters, and they would probably eat it up. Nonetheless, while Joshua Eustis and the late Charles Cooper were most likely not consciously thinking about meditation specifically while working on their first album, Fahrenheit induces not just a state of calm but a state of awareness, making the "meditational" label perhaps more apt than usual. It is music seemingly designed for the observation and appreciation of simple things. If you want to watch the clouds go by, or stare absently out the window of a bus, or watch a leaf float down a river or something, this is your album. And yet, it somehow also manages to sidestep becoming mere background music. The intricacy and technicality of its production attract one's attention in their own right, creating a reciprocal paradox that directs the listener's awareness simultaneously inwards and outwards.

The album's ethos is perhaps best captured by the eponymous opening track, which combines an electric keyboard motif with faint accents of whirring, clattering electronica. Indeed, while Telefon Tel Aviv are most associated with electronic music subgenres like IDM and ambient techno, this seems odd when re-listening to their debut, which places traditional instrumentation in the forefront more often than not and uses an electronic palette primarily, again, as an accent. Fahrenheit Fair Enough could also be conceptualized as something of a war between order and chaos, with order represented by those more traditional sounds and chaos by the atonal electronic machinery clinking and banging around in the background.

The full-length bookends of the album, "Fahrenheit Fair Enough" and "Introductory Nomenclature", embody the balanced integration of these disparate styles, though things get more contentious somewhere in between. "Life Is All About Taking Things in and Putting Things Out" is a reflective reverie via acoustic guitar, minimizing the electronics to mere peripheral buzzing. "John Thomas on the Inside Is Nothing But Foam" -- now might be a good time to point out that the album also has willfully bizarre song titles -- is reminiscent of post-rock contemporaries like Mogwai or a more restrained Explosions in the Sky, driven as it is by a sweet, blissful guitar motif which, I'll say it again, is ideal for cloud watching. You might poo-poo this as unserious music, but I kid you not, go watch some clouds to this song and I guarantee you will be feeling it. When "Your Face Reminds Me of When I Was Old" and "What's the Use of Feet If You Haven't Got Legs" take the reins, though, it's all found sounds, glitchy beats, and ambient drones again, electronica having shattered the guitars and forced them into submission.

Given how un-electronic this electronic album can be at times, listening to the previously unreleased "archives" included on the reissue's bonus disc is surprising. This version of what Fahrenheit Fair Enough evidently might have been is in fact quite electronic. If the original album pays subtle homage to Aphex Twin by weaving chilly, mechanical elements into post-rock structures, the archived material is an absolute liturgy to the work of Richard D. James and Autechre. These tracks strip away traditional instrumentation entirely and concentrate on complexly interlaid digital textures, creating tracks that would hardly feel out of place if spliced among selections from Syro. This is notable, given that Syro came out in 2014 and these tracks were composed and promptly thrown in the vault back in 1999. It is certainly impressive that Telefon Tel Aviv were able to craft such deft compositions on par with the great electronic masters at this time, though this also means that the bonus material runs the risk of being somewhat less original than the, well, original album. "Cliccum" stands out as the best of the bunch, buoyed by a bright melody that effectively counterbalances all the glitchiness, compared with some of its neighbors like "Rittle Alpha" that prefer to wallow in the mire of dissonance.

Fifteen years down the road, it doesn't quite seem apt to remember Fahrenheit Fair Enough as some kind of pinnacle or emblem of any particular genre, sitting as it does at the nexus between post-rock, ambient techno, glitch, and IDM. (Side note: if we start calling IDM "introverted dance music" instead of "intelligent dance music" can we maybe rescue the term from obnoxiousness and keep using it? It would probably be a more accurate moniker anyway, and you have to admit the word makes for useful shorthand). Telefon Tel Aviv's debut, at least in its original conception, is more interested in exploring its competing impulses and fascinations rather than honing in on a singular style, which the duo proved can be just as engaging. It is also an album that is perhaps best enjoyed while engaging in some other kind of simple activity: going for a walk, knitting, drinking tea. This is the "meditative" quality mentioned earlier, and while it perhaps violates purist principles that good music should somehow exist in isolation from any particular context or activity, perhaps here we should check such an idea at the door. With its bonus disc of unreleased electronic experimentations, the reissue of Fahrenheit Fair Enough is a document of forward-thinking genre wars that will fascinate one's faculties and promote a still, meditative awareness.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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