I have a good problem. So, here’s the deal. Occasionally I get an album in the mail asking if I would be interested in doing a review. I’m not too fond of negative reviews, so I delete and move on to the next one if there is a stinker. I don’t get many of those, so that is not a problem or the problem. Most of the albums that I get are good, and I enjoy listening to them and then writing my thoughts about what I heard. No problemo, I can do that easy peasy. The sound problem is the artists and bands that soar above and beyond the hoi polloi.
I have one of those albums staring me down and challenging me to write even one iota about it. The album is from a band that I wrote about back in January of this year, Telefís. I did a short review of their EP “Falun Gong Dancer,” which I gave a glowing review. That was close to being a problem, it was knocking at the door of that rarified atmosphere. Then Telefís cranked their music up to 11 with their new full-length album, ‘a hAon‘, Wimple Discs will release it on March 4, 2022. I am typing this on March 2. I got the album in the mail on February 24. I have had a hAon languishing in my inbox for a week, while I wrestled with the problem of what to say about an album that leaves me speechless.
Tactic number one, when I am stunned beyond words, deflect. Here are some interesting facts about the musicians involved, cut and pasted from the press release.
Telefís (the Irish Gaelic word for Television, pronounced Tele-feesh) is a collaboration between two acclaimed ex-pat Irish iconoclasts, in-demand composer/mixer/producer Garret “Jacknife” Lee (U2, R.E.M., Modest Mouse, The Killers, Snow Patrol, Crystal Castles, Editors) and singer-lyricist-composer Cathal Coughlan (Microdisney, Fatima Mansions and many acclaimed solo works). Having known each other vaguely in Ireland’s early 80s post-punk scene, Jacknife, currently based in L.A. and Cathal, a native of Cork, lives in London. A timely re-introduction by a mutual friend led to the two spending 2020 trading ideas and musical files during the lockdown, hatching plans for a satirical, mischievous examination of Irish history and the pop culture of their lifetimes, which the two have labelled ..” a corrosive nostalgia.”
Tactic number two is to add a quote from the artist/s.
“Collaborating in this way, with a dynamic and consummate artist, who has access to a wide range of skills which I don’t have, but with whom I share many common interests and cultural/historical reference points, has been one of the highlights of my creative life. It’s made me so glad that I’ve been able to remain active for long enough to see something like this happen. Easily as spontaneous and full of surprises as any in-person collaboration, it’s shaken loose many weird and hopefully wonderful things in my verbal workshop. And nobody has heard me use my voice in some of these ways before now, either,” says Cathal Coughlan.
Jacknife Lee adds: “I’d just finished mangling a Luke Haines and Peter Buck record. Luke knows Cathal and re-introduced us. On the first or second correspondence, we thought we should make some music together. Music is probably the only way I can properly communicate with someone. I sent Cathal the backing track that would become “We Need,” and he sent me back the vocal, and we went back and forth from there. Lockdowns and travel restrictions forced us to work remotely, and I think helped us get to where we got so quickly. Cathal is, without doubt, one of the finest lyricists of our time and writes like no one else. Some of the vocals he sent over made me burst out laughing with giddiness and delight at the novelty of them. Mischievous, dark, arcane, crispy fresh, and always unexpected. Every song with a backstory that could be a novel. This is easily the most enjoyable and rewarding music that I’ve been involved with.”
Cathal Coughlan comments on ‘Ballytransnational’: “A gaunt wooden rollercoaster overlooks the flatlands leading to a land border which, for many years until now, used to count for nothing. It used to be the topic of rueful recollections from decades past, but the received wisdom was that the bad old days were over, and seamless moving of fluid identities and capital now ruled the day. Public health concerns and political ferment have now given way to protectionism of many kinds. As the generation who understood the damage caused by that border passes away, the border’s time has come again. And it says: you’re never going back.’
Tactic number three, fade out.
Part celebration, part satire, Telefís is an exploration of nostalgia as experienced in the present day by natives of what was formerly a culturally sealed-off small country on the very fringes of Europe. It also points a critical finger at today’s global hierarchies, inspiring the strange characters and caricatures that spring from Coughlan’s fertile imagination. Stark forms of imagery, bizarre to the modern eye and ear but treated as routine in the pre-globalization world, are pushed at the listener and viewer. On the musical side, Jacknife Lee uses his extensive sonic palette to create an irresistible mix of cinematic instrumentals and electro-funk backdrops full of melodic, squelchy synths and booming bass lines, often with a cheeky nod to electro-pop history.
Tactic number four. On March 4, the ‘a hAon’ album will be available on CD and Vinyl, both with a two-sided lyric sheet insert and across digital platforms. Physical orders are available at https://ffm.to/telefisahaon, and the digital album can be pre-ordered at https://orcd.co/telefisahaon. Purchases from the U.S. will be available at http://ffm.to/telefisusa.
‘a hAon’ LP order (CD and Vinyl) https://ffm.to/telefisahaon
‘a hAon’ LP order (download) https://orcd.co/telefisahaon
U.S. album order http://ffm.to/telefisusa
‘We Need’ https://youtu.be/0WY3tuOZsGc
‘Mister Imperator’ https://youtu.be/DvJlGwXV6IE
‘Falun Gong Dancer’ https://youtu.be/lC9DfC2kHas
‘Falun Gong Dancer’ with Jah Wobble https://youtu.be/0vM0EKu9yYQ
Telefís – YouTube video playlist https://bit.ly/3qYBpOA
Keep up with Telefís
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Tactic number five is not a tactic, just my take on this remarkable album, a hAon. I like it. I like it a lot. I am particularly fond of the video for the song “We Need.” a hAon is a solid 9.5/10. Time will tell if it evolves into the rare 10/10 category. It is certainly on a trajectory to there.