The endurance of The Telescopes is really one of the miracles of our time. A band that first appeared near the early days of what would come to be called -- by me, at least -- the first wave of shoegaze, The Telescopes have continued to offer up music that alternately punishes the eardrums and enlightens the soul. Their blend of feedback-drenched melody and pure rock attitude has been the sort of thing that has defied easy categorization; they seem like a shoegaze band but they've offered so much more all along.
And now, on their ninth album, As Light Return, out Friday on Tapete Records, the band's back with more of what has rewarded listeners for a few decades now. Opener "You Can't Reach When You Hunger" rumbles with some sort of bad intent, the sound of a rage boiling up inside, or a euphoric moment about to happen. It is a dynamic that Stephen Lawrie has sort of mastered these last few decades as he's figured out what to leave out as much as he's figured out what to leave in, or flood with noise. Second cut "Down On Me" is more of the same, this time a sinister, garage rock-like purr running under things. This is part Sonic Youth, part early Mogwai and yet it's absolutely The Telescopes. Elsewhere, the longer "Hand Full Of Ashes" churns and gurgles, the guitars and other instruments lost in a wash of just pure noise, while the trippy "Something In My Brain" reminds one of the best Loop tracks from some decades ago, the release of feedback largely denied and submerged in the gloriously murky underbelly of the instrumentation and near-slurred murmur of the vocals. Superbly un-right, this is precisely why I love The Telescopes' music even as I find it so hard to describe. Epic closer "Handful Of Ashes" treads nearer to industrial noise than shoegaze, the extended textures here ones of unease and release, a sonic landscape of tension coiled.
An excellent addition to the Telescopes' catalog, and a furthering of the sounds put forth by these pioneers so long ago, As Light Return is a fine record. Long-time fans of the band should find a lot to enjoy here even as newer ones easily embrace these ragged guitar-based ruminations. Stephen Lawrie still has his unique gift for crafting stuff like this and I recommend this record heartily.
[Photo: Carlo Emmo]