On the surface, and as the title of this album implies, it might feel like this is the return of The Telescopes, another band from the late eighties and early nineties feeling the need to tackle middle age with music, hair dye and tight black jeans. In truth, The Telescopes never went away, at least Stephen Lawrie didn’t.
Formed in 1987, this will be their thirty year anniversary. Over that time, Lawrie has continued to make music with a number of musicians, enjoying the variety and creative unpredictability this brings. Live shows range from quietly acoustic to full-on noise depending on who is playing. As Light Return is The Telescopes’ ninth album and the second through Hamburg-based Tapete Records.
The main thing you have to bear in mind about As Light Return is that it is not going to be what you expect. It is more sound installation than music album. It’s got five tracks – three are 7-8 minutes long, one is 14. At times it is difficult to differentiate between them. It sounds a bit like having the hoover and the washer on at the same time.
The first track is the only one of any conventional length. At four minutes long, ‘You Can’t Reach What You Hunger’ is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground. It’s music for a dark nightclub where the low ceiling drips with sweat and people saw daylight – once. There might as well not be lyrics as they are so far down in the mix. Instead there is an intoning beneath a noise of static as if you were tuning between Radio 4 and Radio Luxembourg. In fact, your ear adapts after a minute or so and the background feedback on the extended outro is almost comforting. It’s 1985 all over again.
The middle three tracks are all close to eight minutes in length. They share a number of similarities not least of which is the overwhelming use of guitar effects. There are layers upon layers of them. ‘Down On Me’ sounds like being abandoned on the Otley Bypass with only Jim Reid for company. The vocals are evocative of his growling on tracks such as ‘Cracked’ when he is down in the dirt.
The same vocal style is evident on ‘Hand Full Of Ashes’. This one has a ‘Heroin’ drumbeat that pulses through it. The main difference being that the hit never comes and the tempo remains constant. As a result the music becomes hypnotic and trance-inducing.
The last thing you can do with this As Light Return is put it in a box. What you think about it will depend on what you want to do with it. It is possibly the most context-dependent album of the year. You aren’t going to find any of the sweetness of ‘Perfect Needle’ and that’s precisely the point.
Uncommercial, unconventional, uncompromising.
As Light Return will be released on 7th July 2017 through Tapete Records/Bureau B.
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