With Map of What Is Effortless, Telefon Tel Aviv's sophomore release on Chicago's Hefty Records, multi-instrumentalists and laptop-production duo Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper have crafted next-level compositions that ooze with emotion and a haunting sense of vacancy.
The dark undercurrents on Map of ...conjure images of cold, rain-drenched nights and lonely, introspective strolls. A departure from the duo's debut album, Fahrenheit Fair Enough, and its predominantly instrumental musings, Eustis and Cooper opt for more organic instrumentation (Rhodes piano, acoustic guitar and string arrangements) as well as the inclusion of vocals. TTA's efforts result in a bigger, more expansive sound.
"When It Happens It Moves All by Itself," a dense, multi-layered instrumental that boasts a loping Rhodes melody line, rolling beats and subtle strings (provided by the Loyola University Chamber Orchestra), reveals TTA's maturation as both musicians and producers. This type of arrangement also foreshadows the album's subsequent instrumental offerings ("Map of What Is Effortless" and "What It Is Without the Hand That Wields It") and their ominous, cinematic appeal.
But it seems that TTA's most striking achievement with Map of ...is hinged more on its graceful ability to sidestep into the realm of vocal production. Working with Lindsay Anderson (L'Altra) and L.A. singer/songwriter Damon Aaron, Eustis and Cooper's foray yields a handful of exquisite, well-crafted songs. The shuffling, minimalist beats on "I Lied" cradle Aaron's soft crooning while the track slowly builds intensity -- gushing with emotion as the strings swell during the song's chorus. In contrast, Anderson's voice, quiet and controlled, floats atop dirty electric guitar chords and programmed percussion on "What It Was Will Never Again."
Though Eustis and Cooper have remained safely under the radar for the past several years, it appears that Map of ..., with its profound but dark beauty, may garner more widespread appeal for the duo. And yes, laptops are included.