Review: Telescoping – Telescoping (self-released, Apr 7)

I’ve always thought “supergroup” is a dumb word, and disagreed with the implicit assumption that the collective prestige of a group of musicians somehow guarantees the quality of their music, but we’ve also been gifted with some great ones: Muleskinner, Them Crooked Vultures, Last Exit. And now, another addition to the list, and a band with a lineup I truly believe to be “super”: Telescoping. Composed of Stateside experimental music figureheads Alan Jones, Robert Millis, Dave Abramson, and Greg Kelley, the brand-new project emerges from the dark depths of isolation and quarantine with their self-titled debut: four cuts of dense, nocturnal improvised music. The sparse guitar additions lend a welcome element of conventionality to the proceedings, which move fluidly from stunning ambience to unsettling darkness in currents of loose drum set caresses, electronics, processed concrete sounds, and the ever-unpredictable sonorities that emerge from Kelley’s peerless use of extended techniques. Overall, the improvisations are cozy yet slightly morose, wispy chiaroscuros like the four mugs on the cover. It looks like a late-night Zoom conference where everyone is interacting but still isolated, which serves as a fitting analogy for the music’s exploratory, almost tentative nature. I thoroughly enjoyed this release, but I’m not yet sure of my opinion on the reading that occupies much of “More notes from A Handbook on Hanging”; Mr. Jones has a splendid voice, no doubt about that, but both the duration and source material seem like odd choices to me. Regardless of what my kneejerkingly-averse-to-spoken-word brain thinks about that, however, Telescoping is gorgeous, masterfully constructed, and essential listening for anyone feeling any of the following: confused, frightened, bored, sad, alone.

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