Review: Teleman – ‘Breakfast’

telemanThe task of pinning artists down to one or two specific genres has become increasingly difficult.

The lines between styles have blurred and an amorphous dynamism has established itself in contemporary music.

Some showy reviewers cope with this by assigning absurd, drawn out and pretentious designations to performers with little regard for their own dignity.

On an unrelated note, London quartet Teleman are quickly becoming an indie-electro-psych-dream-kraut-pop sensation. Emerging out of the ashes of Pete and The Pirates, they garnered a cult fan base following success at last year’s Latitude and Glastonbury festivals. In addition, they have been touring the UK throughout May, appearing live in session on BBC 6Music and avidly recruiting more loyal ‘Telemen’ and ‘Telewomen’ (they can have that one for free).

All this has been worked around the production of their debut album ‘Breakfast’, partly funded by a Momentum Grant from the Performing Right Society for Music, and produced by Suede guitarist and songwriting legend Bernard Butler.

The record opens with ‘Cristina’; a tentative synth is coaxed into coming out of its shell and shaking up the tempo alongside Thomas Sanders’ familiar Albion-accentuation, leading to the 8-bit, motorik eccentricity of ‘In Your Fur’. These two tracks both use profound lyrical imagery and keep adding layers throughout to build on their initial ‘Kraftwerk-ish’ minimalism. Teleman seem to have found an operational blueprint here that works for them, and much of ‘Breakfast’ is structured similarly.

Steam Train Girl’ is pensive and guitar driven, and definitely their most psychedelic contribution; there’s an excellent use of distorted vocals and another pattern is established in the duality of drum machine alongside tight input from drummer Hiro Amamiya.

Most recent single ’23 Floors Up’ leads with a march-stomp and groovy bassline that bursts into sonorous instrumentation and a catchy chorus which laments the collapse of a relationship in a hotel room: ‘The combination is fine and I can keep good time, the city below is anywhere you like/Oh Love is pouring down, I don’t need anyone’.

Following is the 80’s pop influenced ‘Monday Morning’ and light as a feather indie-bounce ‘Skeleton Dance’. The opening and mid-points of the album are pleasant and worthy of merit, but ‘Breakfast’ really comes into its own towards its conclusion. ‘Mainline’ is a heavier, riff-driven piece that intersperses fixed indie-rock with a smattering of electronic noise and bluesy sliding solos.

The pace drops significantly in the staggeringly beautiful ‘Lady Low’; soft piano and poignant lyrics lead into a burst of saxophone loveliness. It’s unclear whether this brass is electronically produced or a further demonstration of multi-instrumentation from one of the boys, but this question is shadowed by the sheer distinction of the whole construction.

Penultimate track ‘Redhead Saturday’ sets off all smiles and sunshine with a radiance and pleasant nostalgia, and then spins on its head. Sanders sings, ‘The girl’s made of concrete and wants me dead, she can fuck herself for I care’, as things get incrementally louder and the bitterness comes into prevailing fruition.

Travel Song’ closes as an upbeat and whimsical pop ditty with an invigorating chorus which eases out with some light instrumentation. A fifteen second silence is followed by an outbreak of guitars and enthralling robotic vocal repetition featured in the not-so-hidden track ‘Not In Control’. It seems clear this is a bonus addition as opposed to an extension as it differs so profoundly from its precursor. Regardless of this inconsequential detail, both parts offer a more than adequate swan song(s).

Rather than trying to pigeonhole artists such as Teleman into any particular genre and sub-genre, it’s appropriate simply to commend them for using pre-existing formula with ingenuity to establish a clear musical channel.

Regardless of its minor imperfections, ‘Breakfast’ is a marvellous debut and a fine contribution to today’s British music.

(Luke Savage)

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