Review Summary: Outstanding slowcore with a post-rock bent. This record has been slept on for too long.
If you've heard of Telstar Ponies at all, it's probably through Teenage Fanclub - Brendan O'Hare drummed for both bands, having left the Fannies just before they hit their peak with Grand Prix
. Don't expect anything like the wistful power pop of his former band here, though - these guys are a much more measured, introverted, unique beast altogether. And sure, you could say that O'Hare could barely have picked a worse time to leave the band he found fame with, but if this is what he wanted to do, it's not hard to see why he left. As brilliant as Teenage Fanclub could be, Telstar Ponies are sonically a far more interesting proposition (though 'more interesting' doesn't necessarily equate to 'better' - close, but not quite).
If you've investigated slowcore at length, you'll already be aware of a number of bands that are in the same rough ballpark as this. Low and Codeine spring to mind, especially. Yet there's more in this album's sonic palette than just moping around at a snail's pace; plenty of post-rock bands seem to owe a debt to this (most notably Mogwai, who've paid this record the necessary lip service in interviews, but Tortoise too), while they share a love of getting noisy with the shoegazers. Imagine if Slowdive's "Dagger" sounded a little more like a Ride concert and you won't be too far away from this album's best moments, the near-classic "Last Outpost" particularly.
Like the best shoegazers and post-rockers, too, they have a great grasp on dynamic range. "A Little Cloud" could hardly be any more bare without being a-capella, while "Does Your Heart Have Wings" only needs the slightest invitation to get noisy. And amidst all this, there's a smattering of experimental soundscapes and found sounds, on "Bells for Albert Ayler" and "Aegis Falling", and there's an homage to Ennio Morricone on "The Fall of Little Summer". And what the hey, let's throw in a genuinely stunning guitar solo for free, too (it's on "A Feather on the Breath", if you're interested).
If there's a problem with Voices for the New Music
, maybe it's summed up by this review so far - the sound itself is so stunning and inviting that the songs almost get ignored. Maybe that's why, despite not sounding much at all like Mazzy Star, The Velvet Underground, Slint, or any Krautrock band, they've entertained comparisons with all of them. Yet the band have an impressive range here, too. Resignation might seem to reign, as it tends to in much slowcore music, but the Nick Cave-esque "Sail Her On" is a model of steely defiance, and cracks of light appear from the cracks in the dark often enough to make it seem like the door's about to be blown off the hinges.
A brilliant album. God knows why nobody's heard it.