With Map of What Is Effortless, Telefon Tel Aviv marks a radical departure from the opaque ambiance of its 2001 debut, Fahrenheit Fair Enough, toward a rich brew of soul and IDM electronics. Much of it, in fact, features the Loyola University Chamber Orchestra, which lends the proceedings a regal, tortured air similar to the darkly erotic sounds of Massive Attack and Smith and Mighty.
Though one could accuse Telefon Tel Aviv of genre-hopping dilettantism (a trend familiar to Anglophiles), Map of What Is Effortless has an integrity not easily dismissed. Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper enhance their analog compositions with tweaked-out glitch that crackles around the edges like electric shocks. The title track, in fact, is just that -- a movement performed by the orchestra that swells alongside random electronic noises. The net effect is of contradiction, a hesitation to embrace what is seemingly "effortless."
Less complicated are the soul numbers helmed by guest singers Damon Aaron and Lindsay Anderson. Anderson's ballad "Bubble and Spike," which she croons in a tone similar to that of Everything but the Girl's Tracy Thorn, is particularly luscious. Bookending it all is an epic, string-laden melody alternately titled "When It Happens It Moves All by Itself" (an instrumental track), "I Lied" (featuring a vocal from Aaron), and "At the Edge of the World You Will Still Float" (a reprise by Aaron). The lyrics ask us to cast off the weight of history, "From my head/From my heart."