The Telescopes

Hidden Fields

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Unlike their shoegaze counterparts, who faded away long ago but are now coming out of the woodwork to re-form, the Telescopes never really went away. They kept plugging along in different incarnations with interesting detours into trip-hop, avant-garde electronics, and full-on noise experiments. Hidden Fields, their first record with Tapete, a label mostly known for collecting singer/songwriters of a certain age, finds them reaching back to their early days as a band. Their sound retains all the grinding noise and hypnotic glide of recent records, only this time out they attach both to some menacing songs that could have come from their records on What Goes On or Cheree back in the late '80s. Stephen Lawrie's voice is low in the mix, growling and muttering almost to himself, while the guitars roil dangerously and lash out around him like downed power lines and the rhythm section stalks ahead grimly. That makes the album sound like a difficult listen, but it's not. The songs have a powerful attraction as they slowly plow forward and the guitars whip themselves into a majestic maelstrom of sound and fury. The shorter songs that make up the first half of the record are dream pop turned to nightmares, barely moving forward and struggling like they were dragging something unspeakable behind them. Lawrie's vocals have an oddly disembodied feel and the guitars stab through the murky mix like very sharp knives. The second half is made up of one 15-minute song, "The Living Things," that never wears out its welcome and probably could have gone on for another ten minutes of entrancing slow-motion noise. The album isn't easy listening by any means and the Telescopes should be lauded for sticking to their artistic vision at all costs. They probably could have sold themselves as a revival band or pretended to re-form in their poppier guise; that they have made an ugly, snarlingly dark album like Hidden Fields instead is truly impressive.

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