Telemetric Sounds

The Heliocentrics

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Telemetric Sounds Review

by Fred Thomas

Long-running cosmic soul-jazz collective the Heliocentrics signed on with new label Madlib Invasion for their adventurous and dreamlike album Infinity of Now, released in February of 2020. Just about six months later, his fully realized follow-up Telemetric Sounds offers an ominous and decidedly more intense counterpart to the casual psychedelic drifting of its predecessor. The London-based group is known for their hallucinatory sounds and tendency to transform traditional jazz, funk, and soul elements into new alien forms. These deconstructions generally translate into friendly, curious explorations, but Telemetric Sounds is anxious, menacing, and a little bit depraved in comparison to the majority of the band's catalog. The album begins with the slow-burning title track, a tune that wanders in aimless frustration for over 13 minutes through passages of cranky synthesizer noise and tense rhythms. The players sound like they're working out uncomfortable feelings as they push through the lengthy performance, landing in a space somewhere between Sun Ra's most out there mid-'70s recordings and the fever-pitched peaks of more jam-oriented Krautrock bands like Cosmic Jokers, Guru Guru, or Agitation Free. The sharp edges and uneasy feelings of the title track spill over to much of Telemetric Sounds, with tunes like "Shattered Mind," "Devistation," and the pressure-cooker closing track "Left to Our Own Devices" trading in queasy, repetitive riffing and dissonant, disruptive tones. Only a few moments offer respite from the shadow of anxiety that hangs over the album. "Space Cake," with its buried vocals and relatively upbeat groove, is more in line with the nebulous atmospheres the Heliocentrics were deep into on Infinity of Now. Even though Telemetric Sounds finds the group taking a sharp turn into scowling bleakness, the album ultimately reveals itself as more of a reflection on unsettling times than an expression of negativity. The Heliocentrics' ability to effortlessly shift gears and commit so completely to an all-encompassing document of dread just months after releasing an entirely different album is a further testament to their eternal quest for evolution. It's not always the most joy-inducing listen, but Telemetric Sounds acts as an incredibly on-point instrumental embodiment of how it feels to be living through less-than-joyful days.

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