Though they are rife with dreamy pop elements and delightfully fuzzy guitars, You can’t exactly call Chattanooga based Telemonster’s vibe pure “shoegaze.” Yet led by the visionary sonic fusion of founders and cousins Ben VanderHart (guitar/vocals) and Josh Barrett (drums), they’re the only band I’ve heard in years that cleverly addresses that concept in one of their songs, “For Someone Not So Old,” the moody, mystical and ultimately rockin’ and emotionally intense focal track from their latest full length album Introspecter, Pt. 1.
A soulful tune focused on encouraging someone who is down and discouraged, it includes a meditative repetition of the lyrics: “You’re staring at the soles of my shoes/Are you walking somewhere new?” When we understand the personal dynamics – the first line of their press release reads “Over the last four years, the band Telemonster has produced eight kids and one record” - we can perhaps better appreciate the foursome’s seeming hodgepodge of wildly different vibes throughout.
These range from lyrical, acoustic and atmospheric gems like “Opheliac” and “In the Stones” (which opens with a hypnotic wordless vocal rhythm and soundscaping) to the intense, wall of hypnotic sound instrumental interlude with the inscrutable title“Imagine Breathing Heavily With Your Eyes Closed and Your Chest Open (Ta Pocketa Pocketa).
Some of the songwriting is super tight, as on the dream-folk gem “Birmingham” which showcases VanderHart’s transcendent falsetto) and the mysterious and mystical “What You Say All The Time.” On the other hand, they go all prog rock on the trippy, mindbending “Wicked Sinner with the Blues,” an expansive piece that rolls out to over seven minutes.
For good measure, they throw in the under two-minute classically tinged interlude “Promise of Walking/Premise of Waking,” a raw piano solo with a caressing violin. So while working off a foundation of pop, rock and a more complex jazz vibe here and there, Telemonster is all over the map, in quite an intriguing and infectious way. But there may be a method to their cool madness in embodying the “kitchen sink” aesthetic.
Growing their families and raising their kids, they haven’t recorded for a long time (six years) and had a lot of creativity simmering when they carved out time for Introspecter, Pt. 1. Hopefully, as the kids start growing up, their 9 pm to 2 am time slot to work (after everyone goes to bed) will expand and they’ll become more prolific release-wise. Here’s hoping they keep the joyful schizophrenia flowing though.