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The Telescopes
Hidden Fields Jeremy Allen , July 1st, 2015 14:44

The Telescopes might have formed way back in 1987, though on Hidden Fields it's as if they're drawing on the dawning of time itself for influence, an atavistic maelstrom as momentous as the first day. They're certainly not the only band to record an album of beautiful, ear-shredding drone noise of course, but few groups manage to conflate sensory overload with such a keen sense of melody. It's these shards of tune that peak through the sonic wall of noise that hint at humanity and the frailty that goes with it. Otherwise it's blocks of rampant squall and peripheral feedback all the way, most especially exemplified on album closer 'The Living Things', an impressive and irrepressible 15 minutes of cathartic uproar.

The melodic element - buried as it is - shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Though the band founded by Stephen Lawrie emerged around the same time as My Bloody Valentine, their first album Taste, released in 1989, had enough moments of opiated-up euphoria to make you think they had more in common with contemporaries Spaceman 3 and even early Primal Scream; a song like 'Oil Seed Rape' was a confusing two-cars-welded-together kind of a number, floating on an ethereal cloud one moment, then kicking out like a vituperative punk mule the next. They continued to confound on the eponymously titled Creation release (later reissued as Untitled Second), still dodging classification, but submitting to the prevailing shoegazing milieu that characterised 1992. There are odd time signatures thrown in, and even jazzy moments - brushes and vertiginous piano tinkling on the gorgeous 'You Set My Soul' - though at the time, they seemed less like their own band than part of a stable, located somewhere between labelmates the Boo Radleys and the Jesus And Mary Chain.

The real sonic meanderings and record label itinerancy began in earnest from 2000 when the band regrouped after an eight year sabbatical. Playing with a revolving lineup, the sound started to become denser, the tunes gradually retreating into the comfort of white noise. 15 years later following the most unconventional of journeys, The Telescopes are still here, and somehow they sound more vital than they ever did. There's a glowering menace about opener 'You Know The Way', and yet even shifting as it does between two chords with Lawrie growling from the pit of his soul, it still somehow retains the scar of accessibility. Like those other former contemporaries Nirvana, you can almost detect a battle between the desire to be nihilistic and the innate gift for a tune that refuses to be suppressed.  

'Absence' sails through a heart of darkness, and there's always a sense of foreboding even if there's no slaying at the end of it; if it imbues the spirit of the Velvet Underground's 'Venus In Furs', it also drags it some place even more shady (although it would be hard to top the source material of the Lou Reed lyric). And 'In Every Sense', with its heavy drone guitars, doesn't sound unlike the Mary Chain, though it manages to be more tenebrous and druggy. Hot and oppressive like a heavy chinook blowing down a mountain, 'Don't Bring Me Round' pounds away as a finger food sized preprandial before the main event, the corrosive and dissonant closing epic.

Hidden Fields presents a binary world of pure noise set against the briefest interludes of silence between the tracks. It's only during the quiet moments that you can comprehend just how vast this album is.

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