IDM. Nobody likes that term, but many people find it useful. I’m very much on the fence about it. Yet here we are, discussing one of the records that defines the sound of post-’90s IDM: Fahrenheit Fair Enough by Telefon Tel Aviv. This album I’m very much not on the fence about; I unabashedly love it, although it’s not even my favorite TTA record. Lush textures, brain-twisting beats, and gorgeous melodies glitch together into an electronic harmony par excellence on these 9 tracks, making the record as a whole one of the high points of post-heyday ambient dance music.
Often described as a hidden gem of the early 2000s in electronica, Telefon Tel Aviv released three critically acclaimed albums before 2010, yet one stands out from the rest. Fahrenheit Fair Enough, the duo’s debut together, blew critics away with its forward-thinking and relaxing blend of classical and electronic elements. The glitchy, yet soothing sounds that flow throughout the record feels like a real interpretation of neurons firing in the human brain, enigmatic and random, scattered but ultimately collected and tasked with a final goal.
Alongside artists like Boards Of Canada and Aphex Twin, their work stands out from the early 2000s, and certainly steered the course for many of my favourite artists of today, and the last decade. The title track alone is enough to blow someone’s mind, before you’re then taken on a journey of synthesized bliss. “Fahrenheit Fair Enough” is the perfect introduction to the pair’s sound though, with multiple style switches demonstrating what the pair is all about, all the while keeping the beat going and the listener engaged with the staggering dynamic shifts in the instruments.
It is hard to classify the instrumentation on the record, such is the clever manipulation of sounds throughout. Certainly guitars, strings, drums, and more have been used, but their clever warping creates illusions of fairytale lands in the mind’s eye. Paired with the clever synth work, you’re treated to an amazing array of intriguing sounds that make repeated listens not only a joy, but a journey of exploration. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t listen to enough Telefon Tel Aviv-adjacent bands to warrant such a bold claim, but many of their sounds feel wholly unique. Be that due to the recording equipment available at the time or the quality of their craft, I’m not sure, what I am sure of is the quality of the end product.
“John Thomas on the Inside is Nothing but Foam” is not only just a great song name, but a fantastic track, laden with a really smart groove. It keeps a constant line, whilst the intricately woven layers morph and twist the listeners perception of the track. The way they slowly ramp down and upscale the contrast between thick layers and minimalistic experimental sounds is fantastic and one of my other favourites on the record.
The full album, depending on your mood, can be exciting or it can be introspective. The range of emotions this body of art allows you to feel is tremendous and a testament to the work of Charles Cooper and Joshua Eustis, the brains behind the project. Their follow-up Map of What Is Effortless is another stunning album, but it lacks the originality of what makes Fahrenheit Fair Enough so special.