Artist Tips: Telefon Tel Aviv
- Words: Ken Taylor
Immolate Yourself, the latest from Chicago's Telefon Tel Aviv, is a notable departure from the band's previous post-rock leanings. Released this past January, just days before bandmember Charlie Cooper's untimely death, the record finds TTA letting go of their trademark wandering guitars and icy programming. Instead, analog synths and tape loops tend to take up much of the space on this nearly danceable, beat-driven debut for BPitch Control. We talked to member Joshua Eustis in early January about some of the record’s integral components.
Arp Solus synthesizer
This synth is so underrated, it’s a joke. They are getting more expensive now, because people are catching on that it’s basically a monophonic Odyssey, or a two-oscillator version. It has a digital ring modulator, which is totally radical for the Dopplereffekt/Elecktroids vibe. I use it more for really warbly melodies, like on “You are the Worst Thing in the World.” It doesn’t stay in tune very well, but it has become a really beautiful part of its character. Just let it warm up for 20 minutes prior to use.
Oberheim Xpander synthesizer
This is the six-voice VCO analog synth to end all of them. The voices can operate in stereo as well, which is great. It makes pads more lush than any piece of software has to date. It also makes the most evil 16th-note Giorgio Moroder basslines of death. It is a classic, warm, gigantic, vintage beast. Think Violator by Depeche Mode.
Otari MX5050BII tape recorder
This is our two-track, 1/4-inch mixdown deck. Marc Hellner of Pulseprogramming gave it to me on the condition that I would mix his record on it. This thing changed the entire way that we work, and gave us a real physical way to get into sound manipulation in a very old-fashioned, almost classical way. Aside from the fact that we mixed our record down to tape for the master, we’d make tape loops of drums and run them against themselves, slightly slower or faster, and make this kind of Steve Reich phasing thing happen, as on “Your Every Idol,” for instance. It’s not delay making the drums flam and freak out—it’s two tape loops, one slightly faster than the other.
Roland Jupiter 6 synthesizer
I drove out to Bumfuck, Missouri and picked this up off some crazy monster-truck-type guy. I almost electrocuted myself when I reached back to unplug it. The guy had some crazy rigged-up wires attached to it for the power cable. Although it almost feels like a toy to program, it’s really very versatile. You can make amazing string patches, like the one on “Your Mouth” or the bass patch on “Immolate Yourself.” You can also make amazing rave patches and massive Hoover bass sounds.
Arp Omni II synthesizer
We always dreamed of having an Arp string synth. We loved the string sounds on the old soul records, usually made on an Arp Solina—really fake and phase-y sounding. A bunch of bands like Tangerine Dream and Duran Duran used this guy. We used it throughout the record but it really stands out on “You are the Worst Thing in the World.” This thing has no MIDI programming capability and the keyboard plays like its made out of wood.
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