Artist: Telepathic Teddy Bear
Title: The Course Of Empire
Keywords: Passion Pit, Pop, Electro, Electro-Pop, Indie, Indie-Pop, Twee
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
One of these days, in future, when humanity has evolved back into massive land-roving reptilians with pea-sized brains, we’ll look back on the concept of civilisation and laugh — that is, provided we’re still equipped with a capacity for laughter, or commensurate consciousness. Until such a time, we are made to bear it as it runs its course. Like a viral infection, we can do little to resolve it but wait, distract ourselves with mindless television programs and take in as much potable water as remains available.
It is fortunate we have art! We can turn our attentions to a piece such as this, an exploration of the means by which civilisation is made, unfolds, and diminishes.
The Course Of Empire, as described by Telepathic Teddy Bear…
“[…] is based off of this series of art painted by Thomas Cole. The Byron poem in the beginning of the article called “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” is the seed idea that inspired the EP a year and a half ago. There are 5 songs in the EP. One for each painting.”
The first track, titled ‘The Truth Of Violence’, mirrors The Savage State. I’m hearing a low threshold of wind, water. It feels like the carnal elements are at work. There is a dirge of deep strings, a rhythm with tribal tones, polyphonic synthscapes that swell, becoming grandiose. Then, wow wow wow, a really nice section with belltones and smooth vocoder-infused vocals, harmonic and lovely! The mono-lead that comes in is really cool. It’s a lush, texturally complex piece. I’m loving it! At the very end, when everything has broken away, we hear a pastoral acoustic guitar, which leads us on…
… I needed more anyway, so next on the list is ‘The Benevolence Of Ghosts’ which finds its muse in The Arcadian Or Pastoral State. The acoustic guitar is matched by drops of broken breaks, atmospherically gorgeous synth chords that soar in and trail away. More vocoder/autotune vocals that really add a lot of prettiness to the track. I really like the vocals, too, all of this makes me want to go swimming! But, not in a pool… maybe a naturally pool-like body of water, a lake, surrounded by livestock like sheep maybe, who’ve hopefully not taken a shit in the pool… but I suppose it wouldn’t really matter too much listening to this great music and staring at the expanse of green and blue surrounding me and maybe some other people walking around and laughing garbed in draped fabrics or something. It is not to last, however, as we’ve still got a lot of civilisation to go… horns show the way…
… The Consummation Of Empire is ‘The Milk Of The Earth’. The bright horn sections are soon accompanied by an undercurrent of light string harmonies. Wobbly synth chord sequences come in, then… oh, shit. A low, bassy house pulse and some bass drops on the off-beat. At first, I felt like I enjoyed the previous tracks more, but thinking about it, this does suit the notion of the empire having been consummated, in that I’m not as blissfully absorbed. There was an inevitability to this, though. I hear bells in a section in which the groove has dropped off, some nice string overlays. This whole moment is nice, with the breathy vocal harmony. Then, it’s dance time again. The vocals that run throughout, just two sentences, are definitely well matched to the theme of the painting. Then, darkness threatens to consume…
… for ‘The Bleeding Of Mercy’ we find ourselves in Destruction. Here, I’m really loving the lyrics. A gritty robotic voice reads them melodically into the void. The chord progressions aren’t exactly my cup of tea at first, but I’m still enjoying myself. Heavy tom slams, an eerie arpeggio, rumbling synth saws, the whole thing becomes a turbulent force. Progressively, as the walls come down around us, we eventually see the tattered trappings of nature come to reclaim the mix space… birds chirping away…
… finally, with ‘The Remnants Of Will’, we come to Desolation. The birds are coupled with light, airy piano. Sunlight. Cello. Very desolate, but so bright! Toms creep back into the mix, and it’s very brilliant in that it gives us a sense as though we could build from this back into The Savage State. Suddenly, massive flourishes, sparkling synths, horns fanfares, bells! Whoa!
This is an EP that feels like an album. I personally love music inspired by poems and paintings and of much of the conceptual work I’ve seen like this, Telepathic Teddy Bear’s The Course Of Empire was actually absolutely fantastic. It’s not a perfect re-imagining of the form and content of the paintings, I feel, taken in it’s totality, though it does work with the themes in an interesting way, using many sounds, both modern and classic, giving an impression of timelessness. I must give it a solid recommendation, and will also eagerly leave a link to it somewhere below this text. Probably in an obvious spot. I hope you will find it, so you may also indulge in this experience.