- It's hard to blame Joshua Eustis for the lag between "The Birds'" first appearance, three years ago on Immolate Yourself, and its new release as the focus of an EP. Right on the eve of Immolate's release, his partner in Telefon Tel Aviv, Charlie Cooper, died under still-mysterious circumstances. In retrospect, its vocal refrain—"The birds are humming / Of what remains," murmured over shoegaze synth chords and a dawn's-early-light keyboard line that take almost a minute to float up to full volume—is even more unsettling.
There isn't any new Telefon Tel Aviv music on The Birds EP, unless you count "The Sky Is Black," a collaboration between the duo and Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie that appeared on last year's BPitch Control compilation Werkschau and is worth attending to on its own. The real draw is "The Birds'" two name-brand makeovers, which tweak its haunting quality in very different directions. Matthew Dear's remix stretches the above-quoted vocal refrain over a near-Balearic shuffle, led by a strummed bassline that works better than the rest of the track, which also features some of Dear's singing. Far better is Ellen Allien's mix, natty house with some neatly deployed 303 and a springy, circular-motion bassline. The group's backstory obviously plays a role in how we hear it, but Allien's track is assured enough not to require it.
A1 The Birds
A2 The Sky Is Black (feat. Robin Guthrie)
B1 The Birds (Ellen Allien Remix)
B2 The Birds (Matthew Dear Remix)