Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough
Ghostly International (DL/LP/CD)
‘Defiantly spaced-out post-wave…’ ‘Gravelly loops/samples.’ ‘Hydra; downtempo aesthetic.’ ‘Velvety and ghastly vox…’ etc. are some of my notes in reflection from listening to Dreams Are Not Enough. Even prior to the full-length release, the leader single track a younger version of myself has 22K+ streams on Spotify alone. Approaching 50K streams is the other advance release single standing at the bottom of the ocean. Fans and appreciators of Telefon Tel Aviv have begun to familiarize themselves with the contemporary manifestation.
Originally from New Orleans (currently LA via Chicago), Joshua Eustis may subdue an original fan base with this sensitive post-structuralist narrative. Nothing captures the plunging counter-pulse explored in these 9 tracks like the dissolving ender measures of standing at the bottom of the ocean. These heaving bass thumps beget triumphant rests that you can almost feel your chest collapsing into. It’s the emotive and sensory pendulum of such thunderous beat like a knee-jerk reaction throughout your torso.
The bass has added affect in the emotion surrounding this album. It’s been ten years since Charles Coopers’ passing. There’s the post-Katrina milieu too. In the years since the flood, Eustis has worked with some of my favorite musical projects. But here in this album he shines as a producer and a self-aware story-teller. The song titles spell out the cognitive framework and greyscale tonalities transmit the situational curiosity.
I dream of it often, casts the album’s context. We are immediately asked to understand the plague of a dream reoccurring. Next, the aforementioned prerelease tracks clarify. The re-occurring dream is that of meeting yourself as a youth standing on the ocean bottom. I found myself holding my breath through arm aloft. This, the albums longest track, seduces like silken linens. What follows are four descriptive takes on eyes & mouth and their being devoid of function.
Tracks mouth agape and eyes glaring draw an attentive listener. In the ambience one slips into the briny depths with Eustis and his youthful apparition. In these two tracks we follow the dissent into minimalism. The counter-point of the titles serves a clever discernment. If one’s eyes are glaring but not seeing and one’s mouth is agape but not breathing, they are not serving their biological functions. This unravelling of purpose seems to be the album’s turn. The sonically anti-climatic lull leaves hardly any air; the lungs are tight. Even in the resonant space of this latter-middle part of the album, vocals diminish into breathy sustains. Text and coherence are reduced into disarranged shadows of lyrics. Very underwater. Tracks 7 & 8 are rejuvenations; subtle electronics remerge to charge the couplet of negations. Cherished glitch and power-electronics nuance instill a static obedience.
Still as stone in a watery fane alludes not only to the dreamer/dreamt-of; it grounds the listener in a simile illusion. The entire album would have you imagine an underwater shrine – Atlantis. Once you’re in this final track though, it’s nothing flamboyantly mythological or fantastic. Plain stone with rippling etches. The tones still glimmer at times. This works well with the gorgeous golden cover art. Calligraphy script by Daria Morgacheva lists each track title like a journal index. As in a black box theater, the drama unfolds without being completely spelled out. Eustis goes to great lengths to downplay commonplace tropes within dance-electronica. Though there may not be any ‘traditional’ edm compositions on the album, the audio parallels the cover art. There is a shimmering richness etched in midnight matte. The tracks play in a parallel dimension of scintillant self-reflection amidst primarily dark depths.