Frequency Is The New Ecstasy
, March 30th, 2017 10:15
Hovering in on sinewaves, coasting by in seemingly endless sawtooth sinews and floating in excelsis on all manner of electronic and acoustic vibrations, Michael J York and Mark Pilkington’s debut full-length LP as Teleplasmiste largely succeeds in making its title ring explicitly and implicitly true. The range and depth of the frequencies are many and enveloping, and the ecstasies to be enjoyed are equally impressive, especially in the right set and setting (alone, in darkness and at high volume seems to work best).
Given the duo’s antecedents – Coil, Cyclobe, the invigoratingly out-there Stargazer’s Assistant and as part of Shirley Collins’s recent backing group on Lodestar in the case of York, and for Pilkington as a member or guest of such psychonautical ensembles as Stëllä Märïs Drönë Örchësträ, Urthona, Mount Vernon Astral Temple and solo as The Asterism – it’s pleasing to report that Teleplasmiste contains elements of all the above and more. The most obvious comparison, should one be needed, is to the blisteringly epic Time Machines, on occasion a record, an identity and live performance-cum-happening which took the term psychedelic as its literal starting point, with Coil at their most pharmaceutically enhanced naming each track after the chemical formulae of various mind-altering substances. From the opening drones of Teleplasmiste’s ‘A Gift Of Unknown Things’, it’s evident that York (who didn’t actually appear on Time Machines) and Pilkington are on a similarly directed mission.
This they achieve through the nuanced and precise deployment of their instrumentation, centred around but not exclusively based on a pair of vintage modular synthesizers. It’s easy when writing about this sort of heavily – though not purely – electronic music to get bogged down in gear fetish, but it’s worth remarking that the tones and timbres that Teleplasmiste wring from their instrumentation, obscure or otherwise, is often comprehensively mind-bending. This is especially true on the expansive and brain-frying ‘Mind At Large’, and when ‘Astodaan’ kicks in, a piece played entirely through synths routed through a series of guitar amplifiers and effects, they bridge the oscillation gap from deep listening ambient music and the heaviest of doomy drones.
While York is well-known for his flute work and bagpiping, what he achieves here in terms of atmosphere on tracks like ‘Gravity Is The Enemy’ are among some of his best to date, and as the sampled voice fades out, it seems that musicians and listeners truly are “becoming music… becoming light”. Empowering utopianism or hippy-dippy life-affirming twaddle? What could so easily be the latter is assuredly not so in the capable hands of Teleplasmiste at the knobs and controls. They demonstrate conclusively that frequency is the same old ecstatic progenitor it ever was, lifting off and enveloping time and space through the essential purity of all-consuming sound.