My personal relation to Busy Gagnes and Melissa Livaudais aka. Telepathe from Brooklyn has so far been almost romantic: my review of their debut album “Dance Mother” was my very first review for, if I recall correctly, the first ever issue of Missy Magazine.
So to me personally, Telepathe represent new beginnings, the start of something amazing, an atmosphere of departure, innocent euphoria. Besides, I really liked and still like their album “Dance Mother” a lot. Even though their brand of 1980s synthesizers and elements of shoegaze in combination with shrill vocals and tribal percussion was rather old news back in 2009, what they did was pleasantly suggestive and full of atmosphere. In the years to come I asked myself occasionally what Telepathe might be up to – above all upon the release of records by Austra, Au Revoir Simone, Pure Bathing Culture and Warpaint.
Apparently I was not paying enough attention to what Telepathe were doing, as I managed to miss out on the duo’s release of six new songs as singles and/or live-videos over the course of the past three years. It is because of that however that I am not in the position to complain about the fact that there are merely four never before heard pieces on the record, whilst the other six are already known to those who checked in with Telepathe on a more regular basis. Yet to me, “Destroyer” is brand new and promising.
Destroyer was supposed to have been released a while ago, rumour has it that the finished recordings were retained by the label, which was not exactly eager to release the record. Affronted by their label’s lack of support, Gagnes and Livaudais founded their own label BZML and moved to Los Angeles to finish off their album.
Naturally, moving to L.A. affects most artists, which is why “Destroyer” consequently features Californian death cults, sci-fi-literature in the style of Philip K. Dick and it is supposed to have been influenced by the complexity of human interaction. Musically, Telepathe pay tribute to “freestyle Miami beats and Madonna’s early work” All of which you can hear in their songs, if you really want to.
The title track sounds much more energetic and compelling than everything I had heard by Telepathe so far (and those of you who have paid attention will know that that was only their older work), but it also sounds stirringly retro-futuristic. It sounds as if Telepathe have not only listened to early Madonna, but also to Dee D. Jackson’s “Automatic Lover”. On that retro note: Telepathe are playing on their antique synthesizers and their other equipment which means that their sounds also comes across as antique. Which all in all is not a bad thing, but over the duration of a whole album is just a little dull at times.”Drown Around Me” and “Slow Learner” in my opinion are just a tad over the top, but at least the fancy videos that go with those songs feature dancing men on the roofs of skyscrapers.
At some point while listening to “Destroyer”I found myself looking for alternatives to my current email-provider, but I guess that’s another story. The shrill beginning of “Throw Away This” draws me back in, the sound is indeed very Miami-like, flat, rattling along, demanding and simply great – waiting for your sign, waiting for your sign, waiting, waiting…
Apart from that, only “Fuck You Up” stays on my mind because of its original bubbly 80s-beat and its extensive hookline, the rest however is lost in space.
The first two tracks of “Dance Mother”, “So Fine” and “Chrome’s On It” were definitely on my most played playlist five years ago. How good they were, somehow a bit mod, but also experimental, sweet, yet dangerous. Like a radicalised dancehall-compatible version of Cocteau Twins or the other way around, like M.I.A., but more ethereal and more abstract. The new record is a compilation of material that has partially already been released on EPs, so it is actually an album in the original sense. And yet the album comes across as a unit.
It would not exactly be accurate to say that Telepathe have reinvented themselves after “Dance Mother”, there are however a few poignant changes. The 80s-sound, previously only one element among many others, has now taken control. True to the original style, an ancient drumcomputer is chugging along, laying the foundation for the tuned electric toms and the cool, almost non-cheesy kitsch of scattered synthies, as we know them from the likes of Visage or Soft Cell. You can picture the two singers in crop tops, running their hands through their hair in a slightly eery setting that is only faintly illuminated. Just occasionally, there is a rather massive breakbeat that disturbs the regressive bliss and gives away the actual point in time at which the music you are listening to has come into existence. Along with the intensification in the aesthetics of sound comes a more traditional form of songwriting. No fragmentation, no sequences of incredibly long endlessly repetitive parts anymore. Verse, chorus – that’s it. From that it cannot exactly be concluded that the whole thing has gotten more exciting. But if it works all in all and the choruses are as brilliant as they are for instance in “Damaged Raid” and ”Throw Away This” then I say: “No further questions, your honour” – Telepathe are still a great and carelessly underappreciated band.
(Translation: Tanita Sauf)