The Telescopes – As Light Return

by Freq | 2017-07-06T17:48:28+00:000000002831201707 17:48


The Telescopes - As Light ReturnI remember listening to The Telescopes at the back end of the ’80s, but was never as convinced of their power as that of the likes of Loop and My Bloody Valentine. I am sure Stephen Lawrie is sick of hearing the comparisons and after a long time, it was interesting to dip my toe back into their murky waters. To be honest, I had a feeling that their direction may have changed over the years after purchasing a record on which they shared sides with the majestic Vibracathedral Orchestra and discovered a delicious sprawling mass of noise.

Heartened by this, I slipped the CD of As Light Return into the machine and was very happy to hear a slow sombre pop song stretching out from the speakers, detached vocals direct from the bottom of a well attempting to subdue a slick of feedback coating the entire proceedings, while an extremely good bassline tries to bring things into focus. I remember smiling at the audacity of The Jesus And Mary Chain‘s first single and “You Can’t Reach What You Hunger” covers similar ground, but without the sunshine and takes it to its logical conclusion by trying to drown it in the well in which the voice resides.

“Down On Me” hums with the resonance of something mysterious, as if great pressure is being applied somehow to the sound. The song seems to be circling a black hole and only the dark, crumbling frequencies are able to resist the pull. Here and there the drums and bass seem to pick up a scent of unease, as if they were great bloodhounds attempting to uncover buried secrets; but the guitar is unable to respond and is stuck circling and curdling, stultifying and decaying as it gradually drifts towards silence. Once its rhythmic rudder is lost, it can fight no more and is helpless in its plight.

It is really glorious to once again hear somebody who clearly loves song-writing but is not so precious that they aren’t unwilling to attempt to smother a slow melancholic pop song with writhing tendrils of feedback in so unyielding a manner. We know a song is buried beneath the waves on “Hand Full Of Ashes”, but you need a Davy lamp and caving gear to unearth it. At times it is as if we are listening to the band playing a farewell groove in an underground train, its brakes full on but still descending further towards the earth’s core, the cry and squeal of metal upon metal adding dissonance but beauty to the band’s composition.

Doubtful electronic machinery entwines around feedback-soaked, double-tracked poetry on “Something In My Brain” and although it is about 11pm, I have a nagging urge to turn up the volume and allow the sweet feedback sorcery to worm its way into the neighbourhood. I am imaging this current line-up live and what a thrill it would be to have your ears rinsed in such a way, but on on the epic closer “Handful Of Ashes”, there is a little more vibrancy added into the mix. Submarine dive signals lend a claustrophobic, sub-aquatic air, and as the interminable repetition starts to hypnotize, hazard warnings appear in our eyes. The subtle change in the atmosphere brings about variations in tone and texture, but we are pressed ever forward or onward or downward or roundward; by now, it is hard to say; but we are overcome.

For me, Stephen seems almost to have re-invigorated The Telescopes in a far subtler and further-reaching manner than a lot of bands of a similar vintage. With ex-labelmates Ride and Slowdive essentially re-inventing the wheels of their heyday, Stephen has chosen to almost abandon any memories of the band and plough ever onward, restless, mercurial, unique. I wish him great fortune wherever he may go next.

-Mr Olivetti-

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