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The Telescopes - #4 / Auditory Illusions

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Artist: The Telescopes

Album: #4 / Auditory Illusions

Label: Double Agent

Review date: May. 30, 2006

The Telescopes always traded in density, as opposed to the featherweight dynamics of their supposed 1990s peers. The revisionism afforded by the recent spate of Telescopes reissues and compilations suggests the group, maligned and misaligned during their late 1980s rock-primitive period and their subsequent dalliance with early 1990s English psychedelia, were always heavier than legend would have. With the benefit of hindsight the group’s real concerns, unchanged after almost twenty years, come clear: the rush of blood to the head, the voiding of the mind and the charged blitz of bliss-at-the-edge-of-experience. Real jouissance, you might say, music that undoes your sense of security.

The Telescopes recently released a split 10” with English potting-shed improvisers Vibracathedral Orchestra. The connection makes perfect sense, as both outfits ride the primeval power of the drone, with The Telescopes the dark side of VCO’s joyous group sound. On #4, The Telescopes bolt gritty blocks of noise, rich with fossil and sediment, onto minimal songs and melodies. The result has no clear referents, save perhaps the pools of riff and texture that Main perfected on their Motion Pool, or Labradford on A Stable Reference: ‘songs’ - of a sort - that forever spiral inward, fractal and hypnotic, unsettled by a micro-active bed of noise percolating at the edges of audition. It’s gorgeous stuff, but edgy with it, and miles beyond the gormless drone/ambience peddled by most in this field.

Sometimes The Telescopes surrender to graceful beauty, as on #4’s “All the Leaves”. These poised, charming melodies recall their untitled second album, where quiescent songs flickered from within a heat chamber, walls glossed with steam and fog. Auditory Illusions is an acoustic EP of new settings for three songs from that album, “Flying”, “Yeah” and “And”. The approach is similar to #4, with Stephen Lawrie and Jo Doran’s murmured vocals wilting over leaching drones, the songs shyly peering into the sky, breathless and sunblind. Auditory Illusions makes the cross-temporal connections evident: The Telescopes have been mining this plush seam of drone/dream psychedelia all along. We were just too dumb to notice the first time round.

(#4 is available on the band's own Antenna label. Check out antennarecords.com.)

By Jon Dale

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