Descended from a long line of idiosyncratically British groups stretching back to XTC and Talk Talk, Teleman’s quietly thoughtful school of indie has won them admirers and modest commercial success; regrouping after their second album Brilliant Sanity, the four piece have now elected to take a gamble with Funf, a quintet of new songs each created in collaboration with a different producer.
This might not sound that adventurous, but the break in process was compounded by the specifics of which deskmen they decided to work with; from Erol Alkan protege Ghost Culture to Israeli Moscoman – most if not all who had backgrounds in electronic music and some of whom had never recorded a band before.
Even so, Funf carries with it more of a toe-in-the-water approach to experimentation than a decisive new vector, the results still landing in a fairly tight circle around what those familiar will recognise as the Teleman banner.
Opener Spectre goes long on Moog dominated bumps in the night and mad professor phrasings, its vintage androidica straddling the ashes of post punk and early synth-pop, whilst Bone China Face is a degree or two more straight ahead, the subject a much pap-snapped diva no longer in possession of their third dimension, a coup for the honesty of pure self-love.
Inevitably – and perhaps deliberately – having a raft of different producers puts more spotlight on their interpretation rather than necessarily the material, but by and large the remit seems to have been twitching the dial, to the extent that Bullion’s helming of Rivers In The Dark is fingerprint-light and indistinguishable from songs past. Assuming no collusion between the quintet, there’s also a codified seamlessness throughout, although what would pass as genuine incisiveness is left to the end, with the waves of tension that ripple through Repeater lending it an urgency previously lacking.
These elements; elevation, stripping back, space and the sweetness of release, all snap together on Nights On Earth, not dance music, not house, not disco, not soul, just a tenderness conveyed best by its astute layering, a rarified zone in which our inner dancefloors are pried open and from which Hot Chip sprang what seems like a million years ago.
Whatever the reason, pop’s spirit is a restless one now, the idea that repeating the same thing over and over brings the same results ingrained in many people’s minds. Funf is the scratch but not the itch, a good idea which leaves Teleman’s strengths and weaknesses in very much the same place as they were before.
It’s an interesting detour, but we wait for a real plunge into the unknown.