Telefon Tel Aviv

Dreams Are Not Enough

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The future of Telefon Tel Aviv seemed to be in doubt when Charles Cooper unexpectedly passed away in early 2009, right when the duo's third album was released. After spending the majority of the 2010s concentrating on several other projects, including Sons of Magdalene, the Black Queen, and ongoing involvement with Nine Inch Nails and Puscifer, Eustis reactivated TTA as a solo venture, performing shows and reissuing the duo's first two albums through Ghostly International. The same label also released Dreams Are Not Enough, the first TTA full-length in a decade, and it's every bit as beautiful and devastating as fans would expect. As with the second and third TTA albums, this one matches innovative sound design with emotive lyricism, but following the deaths of Cooper and several of Eustis' other friends and family members, the album takes on a much more harrowing tone. The poetic song titles and lyrics are based on a recurring dream Eustis has had since childhood, in which he witnesses himself standing motionless at the bottom of an ocean. His words express the terror, wonder, regret, and astonishment of this immeasurably bleak scene, combined with a lifetime of loss and faded dreams. The time-shifting sonics of Second Woman (Eustis' brilliant collaboration with Belong's Turk Dietrich) are carried over into the framework of TTA songs, with intense waves of thudding glitches and frayed distortion engulfing Eustis' mournful vocals. Yet as hyper-detailed as the production is, there's still an essential element of space, letting everything float in the void. Two of the most memorable songs, "standing at the bottom of the ocean;" and "not seeing," consist of slow, woozy drum machines and melancholy vocals, resulting in futuristic avant-pop bringing to mind Andy Stott's albums from the mid-2010s. Slightly more danceable are the sludgy schaffel-techno of "a younger version of myself," and the staggered electro-acid of "arms aloft," while "not breathing," is a heavier, more imposing industrial/rhythmic noise track. An absolutely crushing listen, and every bit as powerful as the previous three TTA albums.

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