Is there such a thing as too much attention to detail? Painstaking bedroom producers Telefon Tel Aviv bypass details altogether on Map of What Is Effortless, instead honing in on fragments of details. Yet while so much IDM tends to perplex skeptics of micro-processed electronic music, Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper smooth the edginess off glitch by subsuming strong, orchestral songs in the urbane poise of r&b.
The Chicago duo is hardly the first band to embrace loveless pathos in the gray space between indie-rock heartstrings and electronic-beat come-ons, but few have made it sound so natural. Every track on their second album carefully limns the silhouettes’ enveloping absence of trust (“I Lied”), love (“Nothing Is Worth Losing That”), and memory (“What It Was Will Never Again”). Their cinematic requiems to not-there-ness merge Pulse Programming’s laptop myopia with the tidal ambience of the Rachel’s, eclipsing icy sensuality with febrile languor. Damon Aaron and Lindsay Anderson, shimmering vocalists dimmed only by banal lyricism, alternately intertwine with drifting strings and guitar and shy digital melodies, which hide in the niches carved out by rhythmic chirps and scrapes. Just one detail goes unconsidered: Map of What Is Effortless is lavish headphone music that’s actually best when shared by two.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 13, 2004