Telefon Tel Aviv consists of Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper. They are from Chicago, and, by the way, have nothing to do with Israel. They were joined by an excellent female vocalist whose name I didn't get. Maybe someone can let us know her name in a reply to this topic.
The performance was an R5 Productions concert at the Unitarian Church, on Chestnut near 21st Street. Apparently there are many alternative and underground concerts put on by these guys. In fact, this show started late because there was a Radical Punk concert earlier in the day and the band was delayed breaking down. The venue is in the basement of the church, in a recreation room. There are no chairs, everyone stands. The sound system was adequate, not great. I was very happy that it wasn't too loud, even when the first band, The Liars, a conventional rock band, was playing.
Telefon Tel Aviv plays very interesting music; very mellow, with a nice crisp electronic topping. It reminded me a lot of cool jazz. They often use a Rhodes electric piano, as well as a bass, a guitar, and Apple laptop and a beautiful Moog Voyager synthesizer. Most of the songs they played had a very active electronic drum beat backing, or should I say facing. They keep the beat always up front, with crisp highs and a very powerful punching bass. The beat track has lots of electronic ear candy, with panning and neat frequency modulation. It sizzles, but it sounded very much the same from song to song, unfortunately.
The vocalist was quite good. Her voice was sometimes processed by a vocoder and by heavy amplitude modulation with a square wave. This was a great effect, used very sparingly. I wasn't able to understand many of the words of the songs. Most of them set a blue, laid-back jazzy mood, but one or two were up-tempo. One song, she said it was her favorite, had the lyric "I've got a crush on you".
I was interested in what they would do with the Moog. They played it for a few very subdued melodic lines, often hardly noticeable. Most of the time it sat on the stage by itself, unplayed. It is possible that the sparkling electronic sounds from the percussion track was actually played on the Moog via MIDI from the Apple, I couldn't tell.
All three of us enjoyed the performance quite a bit. These people are good musicians working on creating their own sound - very intelligent. The audience responded to them quite well.
I spoke a bit with Josh before the band went on. He said they're moving to a more hardcore rock sound. He said they thought some people might be disappointed. I'll bet they do this in a very elegant and intelligent way. I look forward to hearing them again.
The next time Zynthetik recommends some music, I'm certainly going to pay serious attention.
Telefon Tel Aviv is on Hefty Records.