Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper, aka Telefon Tel Aviv, take on an extraordinarily disparate variety of artists on this remix compilation. Everything from Nine Inch Nails to Apparat via Oliver Nelson gets the Telefon treatment. What is more extraordinary, however, is the fact that they manage to make such a broad variety of artists all sound the same. You listen stunned as artist after artist gets assimilated by the high-tech twosome’s sludge machines and dribbled out again as the same old whirring, bleeping dub-tronica. The sort of thing they play in the background at yuppie cocktail parties I should imagine. Interesting enough to serve as a talking point, perhaps, boring enough to talk over.
The remixes do get better as the album goes on. They are arranged in chronological order; the first track, a remix of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Even Deeper’, is the first track ever released under the Telefon Tel Aviv moniker and a poignant demonstration of the sad fact that great musicianship and studio prowess do not always make for interesting music. But as things progress, presumably as Telefon ‘found their voice’, the bleeps and whirs take on slightly more raison d’etre than they had in the early days. The remix of Phil Ranelin’s Time Is Running out is a stand out track which really benefits from the abandoning of ‘wistful, ‘nostalgic’ cliches, going in for a refreshingly sinister sound. Marc Hellner’s ‘Asleep On The Wing’ is also an ear-opener thanks to its 7/8 time signature and scuzzball distortion. Towards the end of the final track too, Slicker’s ‘Knock Me Down Girl’, some pleasantly distorted action emerges from the corporate dub. But the breaks in the texture are rare, and when they do appear, can be disappointing – the promise of sexy electro at the beginning of American Analog Set’s ‘The Green Green Grass’, for instance, is scuppered by the band’s unwholesome whining.
In all, though definitely the product of some fine musicians with studio knowledge to rival our greatest electronica geeks, Remixes Compiled is fundamentally dull. It says on Telefon’s website that the duo aim at “the complete hybridisation of music”. I am afraid that what they have accomplished here is mere homogenisation.