Released back in early 2017, Frequency is the underheard debut full-length from the duo of Coil/Cyclobe alum Mike York and Mark Pilkington (from Strange Attractor Press). Given that singular and occult-tinged pedigree, it is no surprise that something novel and wonderful emerged from their union. I suppose Coil‚Äôs more hallucinatory and amorphous late-period work is a solid touchstone, but it is also a mere jumping-off point, as Teleplasmiste descend even deeper into lysergic drone territory. At its best, Frequency is like a psychoactive depth charge dropped straight into my unconscious, exploding into a disorienting and almost vertigo-inducing swirl of colors and texture. While some of these swirling, smearing, and buzzing synth invocations admittedly strike deeper than others, the album as a whole is a tour de force of hypnotic, slow-burning, and reality-dissolving wave- and frequency-manipulation.
In many respects, the opening "A Gift of Unknown Things" is the perfect and representative harbinger of the droning psychedelia to come, as it is built from densely buzzing and sustained synth tones that slowly swoop, swell, and oscillate in a sustained reverie.Gradually, a strangely hollow and plinking percussion motif appears, but the piece does not feel like an evolving composition so much as it feels like I was dropped in the middle of a strange and disconcerting sound world that eventually grows more complex texturally.It is not quite a brilliant enough illusion to fully transcend its likely improvisatory origins, but it is still an appealingly immersive and phantasmagoric place to linger.Later, "Mind at Large" returns to roughly the same territory, though it casts a deeper spell, as the central motif is embellished by a wonderfully queasy and gently fluttering periphery of blurred tones and buried subterranean plunges.That "densely buzzing and slowly swooping drones" template is reprised once more in the epic "Radioclast," albeit this time with an undulating undercurrent of feedback/harmonic-like ripples.¬†I like all three pieces, but they are all very much cut from the same cloth and do not do much to establish Teleplasmiste as a unique and formidable entity.Given the intriguing body of work that both artists have behind them, I was hoping that Frequency would be more than just an atypically strong synth album that draws upon some especially cool influences.The pieces mentioned above admittedly are a bit more than that, as they creep into deep trance/altered state territory, but they are not quite the visionary break from the current synth milieu that was expecting.
Thankfully, that visionary break comes elsewhere on the album, as "Gravity is the Enemy" succeeds admirably in realizing the duo's stated objective of "blurring vintage synthesis and contemporary electronics with acoustic pipes to create a transcendent reverie that exists on a wavelength beyond both retro fetishism and modern-day machinations."At its foundation, it shares a densely throbbing bed of synth drones with everything else on the album, yet that is merely the framework, as York unleashes a sinisterly dissonant maelstrom of gnarled pipes over it to harrowing effect.There is also an added textural layer of odd crashes and hollow drips that imbues the piece with an otherworldly sense of place.I feel like I am about to be a human sacrifice for some kind of malevolent ancient ritual in Teleplasmiste‚Äôs time-traveling trance cave, which is definitely not a sensation I can get elsewhere.That is unquestionably the album's zenith as far as establishing a mesmerizing new niche is concerned, yet the following "Astodaan" is no less stunning.This time, however, the achievement is more of a compositional one, as the swirling haze of shimmering heaven in the periphery creates the feeling of an evolving chord progression quite different from the usual floating stasis.That is not the only innovation, however, as the central drones take on a far more visceral and snarling character and it is absolutely glorious.It also nicely illustrates the difference between a good Teleplasmiste song and a great one: one sneaks its tendrils into my consciousness and pulls me towards some kind of blurry and alien dream state and the other does that AND hits me on primal, seismic level.
The album is curiously rounded out by "Fall of the Yak Man," a haunting earlier piece that diverges significantly from the rest of the album in a couple of key ways (it has a melody and it lacks a heavy drone backbone).¬†It has an ageless and elemental menace to it that I rather enjoy, but I think York and Pilkington‚Äôs intuitive move away from such composed-sounding fare was ultimately a good decision: Teleplasmiste are at their best when they erase all trace of themselves and just set about trying to dissolve mundane reality.Some pieces admittedly succeed more than others, but that is to be expected: York and Pilkington are like two necromancers trying to find the runes that will summon exactly the demon that they want‚Äìsometimes they do not get the ideal result, but that is because they are trying to do something that no one else can do in largely uncharted territory.That said, this is still a fine and absorbing album by any standard.Still, I am hoping that this is just a formative first step and that York and Pilkington will keep traveling this arcane path, as "Gravity" and "Astodaan" lay the groundwork for a second phase that could (and should) put Teleplasmiste on the same level as York‚Äôs iconic previous projects.