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THE TELESCOPES / E.A.R / BOLOGNA PONY – Nottingham Social 2/10/05

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Chris S

Nottingham’s Bologna Pony are interesting for 3 reasons:
1. They’re not bad
2. Their first record was their first practise which means they have evolved onstage over the course of the few gigs they have done and, as an audience member, watching a band evolve in front of you can be exciting
3. Their name throws up some eye opening shit if you type it into Google Image search.
Tonight the normally 2 piece Pony are 3 with the addition of drums and sometime accordion. The increase in quality is evident right off the bat. It isn’t so much that the drummer improves them, it was more that it seems to push them further towards what they rightfully are – a rock band – and so the guitar playing is more focused as a result and they seem to communicate slightly.
The only lull in the (long – for them) set is when the sound is stripped back to a single guitar in favour of some microphone feedback which only serves as some kind of reference to the type of band the Pony might want to be but aren’t. They don’t seem to know what they are or why they do it until it’s too late and their time is up. I don’t know if that’s a criticism.
But tonight when they let their uptightness go they are a thundering rock band. Imagine Sunn O))) without the schtick. Some people would say that’s the point of Sunn O))) but Bologna Pony seem to think otherwise, even if they haven’t worked it out yet.
Fuxa was supposed to play this evening but got involved in some government lockdown due to a lack of work visa, before being sent back to Detroit. Instead we get Sonic Boom doing his Experimental Audio Research solo work. I’ve seen him do it before and couldn’t immerse myself enough to dig it and I figure tonight will be no different, in the surroundings of The Social with me being very tired.
But it works. I think the reason is that he set up with his back to us so we could see what he was doing. If you’ve never seen EAR before then it’s worth saying here that Sonic uses oscillators and tone generating devices that are beyond my comprehension. On top of this add a circuit-bent Speak & Spell (actually a Speak & Maths I later found out) and what seems to be a reverb unit of some sort.
The reason I mention this is that when someone uses ‘magic boxes’ it throws up all kinds of complex questions about the validity of what they do and this can be applied to all 3 bands this evening. Is it ‘real’? How much involvement does the person have? I think this is because we analyse things that are musical on technical merit, even if we don’t mean to. There is still the question of spectacle in live performance – that is the spectacle of the virtuoso playing to the people and demonstrating a higher gift. So we don’t like people miming and sometimes the presence of ‘magic boxes’ makes things close to the mime.
Me? I just figure if it has human elements to it I don’t care if they’re miming or not.
Anyway, this relates to EAR, as by turning round you can see exactly what he is doing and rather than being fake because of the boxes seeming to play themselves it actually feels as if it were much more real somehow. I mean, drone music and music that uses tones as it’s basis is all about the ‘hang’ not the ‘attack’ so when guitars are used every effort is made to suppress that physical attack of a pick hitting a string and instead it concentrates on the point after that, the echo hanging in the air, the note left to linger. At that exact point, there is no human contact, it is the after effect of human contact you listen to.
So EAR is the purest form of this – it is just tones set up to oscillate against each other creating pulses and rhythms, it is the most direct drone, the most undiluted. It doesn’t matter that the visual side of things is non existent and you almost feel you need to move around when he plays, it’s just there and you get the feeling when the power is turned off the sounds are still there, trapped in the boxes until he lets them out next.
The Telescopes operate in the same field in that they work in the ‘hang’, although it’s tempered with the ‘attack’ more than with EAR. In fact they represent a half way house between the acts that open the evening. The type of pulses that subtly shift in and out of EAR’s set are used again but latched onto and built around until they become overpowering. The guitars linger for sure but at times it is at extremely loud volume.
The contrast between the 3 members gives it its vital human element. Steve appears wilder than the other 2 and constantly dissatisfied with the sounds being made, he seems itchy (and occasionally violent) in search of something he doesn’t have.
This contrasts perfectly with Jo, whose meditative guitar style adds a backbone to everything that happens around it and just shimmers throughout. Lorin exists somewhere between the 2 and it seems his activity defines the context that Steve and Jo are heard in. He batters bed springs, mics his projector, bows a bass in it’s stand and dances with a home made theramin. His role is that of the conductor, or better still – the translator.
It’d no doubt annoy them but in shaking free of the ‘shoegazing’ tag they have actually managed to condense the best parts of that genre into something new. I mentioned Sunn 0))) before and what their mission statement seems to be (condense metal into the rip of the power chord and the doom imagery) and it can be said to be the same here – except The Telescopes condense shoegazer music into a series of drifts, pulses, washes and fiery noise beats and clatters. They basically cut the chaff out of their own genre and in doing so now exist in this weird vacuum where old Telescopes fans are puzzled and people who might like what they do now wouldn’t necessarily think to seek out their music. Not that they care.
It’s worth pointing out that on the first night of the tour Lorin fell asleep at the wheel of the band car and ploughed into the central reservation of the M40 before executing several 360 degree spins and landing, with no lights, facing the oncoming traffic in a Ford Escort about 4 ft long and 2 ft wide. They all delighted in telling me how they thought they were going to die, how the doors to the car wouldn’t open and how they spent 2 hours wrapped in tin foil on the hard shoulder of the motorway. Steve was particularly impressed by the slow down calm of the car crashing itself. I think a recorded description of the event read by the band members needs to be played before each of their shows.
I reckon by accident (literally) The Telescopes may have found the perfect context for their music.

Chris S

Chris lives for the rock and can often be seen stumbling drunkenly on (and off) stages far and wide. Other hobbies include wearing jumpers, arsing about with Photoshop and trying to beat the world record for the number of offensive comments made in any 24 hour period. He has been married twice but his heart really belongs to his guitars. All 436 of them.


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