The Telescopes formed in Burton-upon-Trent, England, in 1986, starting off as a noise rock band, then becoming shoegazers, then dream poppers, later delving into electronics and exploring the avant-garde over a long, interesting career — mostly spent out of the spotlight. Singer/guitarist Stephen Lawrie, guitarist/singer Jo Doran, lead guitarist David Fitzgerald, bassist Robert Brookes, and drummer Dominic Dillon comprised the original lineup, which in 1988 issued its first single, “Forever Close Your Eyes,” a split flexi-disc with Loop issued on Cheree in honor of the two groups’ joint New Year’s Eve performance. The Telescopes’ official debut single, “Kick the Wall,” followed a year later, its feedback-laden trance rock earning the band critical comparison to the Jesus and Mary Chain and Spacemen 3. “7th # Disaster” appeared in the spring, and in the summer of 1989 the group issued its breakthrough effort, “The Perfect Needle,” its debut for the American indie label What Goes On. The Telescopes’ debut LP, Taste, closed out the year, and in 1990 the Fierce label also issued a live LP, Trade Mark of Quality.
When What Goes On went bankrupt, the Telescopesrelocated to Alan McGee’s Creation label, where the white noise assault of their early releases gave way to a more ethereal, textured approach with 1991’s Celeste. In the wake of the gorgeous “Flying,” which reached the number 79 spot on the U.K. pop charts, the band released their first Creation LP, The Telescopes, a landmark effort. Sculpted from shimmering guitars, sinuous basslines, and soulful rhythms, the record remains a classic of the shoegaze era. Its success, however, proved the band’s undoing, and after contributing a reading of “The Good’s Gone” to the Who tribute album Who Covers Who, the Telescopes dissolved in 1994, citing creative differences.
Lawrie and Doran reunited in 1996 in the likeminded Unisex, releasing “TV Cowboy” — half of a split single with Good Morning Canada — in mid-1997. An EP, Deadlock, and a full-length, Stratosfear, followed on the U.S. indie Double Agent before Lawrie and Doran revived the Telescopes’ name for 2002’s Third Wave and 2005’s #4, which expanded on the duo’s interest in electronic music. Doran was out of the lineup by 2006’s Hungry Audio Tapes, and was replaced by Bridget Hayden. Two years later, Infinite Suns followed on the Textile label. In 2010, Lawrie invited members of fellow travelers One Unique Signal to function as his backing band for Telescopes live dates, and the concert album Live. Aftertaste. documented the transition. The next few years were spent gigging and releasing singles before they returned with their seventh album HARM. The album was recorded in one take, with no overdubs and all the instruments tuned to 444 Hz for maximum noise. After taking their sound as far out as it could go, they released Hidden Fields for the German label Tapete in 2015. It was their most song-based effort in years, full of rampaging shoegaze and noise pop. True to the band’s sometime contrary nature, the next album signalled a complete stylistic shift towards something less song based, darker and drowning in harshly droning guitar noise. Recording with the help of Scottish band St Deluxe, As Light Return was issued by Tapete in July of 2017.
by Jason Ankeny