Telesma’s “Decade Dance” Review
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Telesma. It was in 2013, at the Powwow, once a truly one-of-a-kind festival, nestled in Baltimore’s Ferry Bar Park, featuring art of all varieties. There were dozens of interesting vendors, a ton of colorful characters in attendance, multiple music stages and perfect weather, not to mention the event was free of charge.
When Telesma took the stage overlooking the Ferry Bar Channel, I was astounded at the sound they produced. To this day I have never heard music that blends tribal rhythms, psychedelic rock and ambient sounds with as much success as Telesma. On a spiritual level, the audience seemed to connect to the primitive percussion combined with the excitement and raw power of electric instrumentation and hypnotic vocals. The band showed masterful command of their instruments, and when they incorporated slap-bass, I was sold (I’ve always been a sucker for a funky bass line). And, perhaps most impressively, Telesma got the whole crowd to dance to their music.
When their performance was reaching its climax, filling the park with intertwining grooves and psychedelic sounds, a police helicopter began to circle overhead. From the chopper, the police were yelling something over the loudspeaker to no avail, for it was drowned out by the psychedelic sounds of Telesma. It was truly a beautiful moment, where Telesma’s spiritual rhythms and melodic chanting rendered the police’s authority impotent. After the band concluded their set, the festival fell back to earth and was subjected to the bleak reality of things. The voice on the loudspeaker became clear, informing the crowd that the event was over and instructing people to start heading for the exit. I believe the police ended the Powwow because the attendance was more than the festival’s permit allowed, but I am still not sure. However, Telesma blew me away with their unique sound and has been on my radar ever since.
So, as you can imagine, I was very excited at the prospect of reviewing Telesma’s newest album, Decade Dance. This five song EP was released at the end of 2014 celebrating Telesma’s 10 year anniversary. Produced by Telesma and Frank Marchand, and engineered and mixed at Hudson Street Sound in Annapolis, Decade Dance is the culmination of art that Telesma has been creating for the past decade. In typical Telesma fashion, the album combines elements of world music, electronic dance music, psychedelic rock, ethereal soundscapes and spirituality, taking the listener “on a journey through the mind, body and soul,” according to the band’s website.
From the first track, “Hanuman,” Telesma locks the listener in with a groovy 7/4 beat. The song is upbeat, exciting and highly danceable. The alternating rhythms, interesting instrumentals and mesmerizing vocals set the tone for the rest of the album.
Track number two, “Life of Mind,” opens up with a droning didgeridoo and repetitive rhythm that are both sustained throughout the song. The tune is characterized by a complex finger-tapping bass riff that meshes perfectly with the sweet vocal and guitar harmonies. The meditative piece is broken up by the distorted guitar in the chorus. I found the lyrical content interesting; it explores human perception and the relationship between the mind and soul. One lyric in particular stood out to me: “Give me a present moment said soul to monkey mind / just rest your chattering come sit by my side.”
“Bliss” begins with a cool drum beat and an almost Middle Eastern-sounding guitar lick, dripping with heavy reverb, setting the other-worldly atmosphere for the song. Telesma uses shifting rhythms, clean and distorted electric instruments, and an exploration of a musical theme to create a complex, interwoven soundscape that transports to the listener to another dimension. The tempo gradually slows, building into a mind-bending guitar solo and a heavy breakdown of sorts before the song fades out.
My personal favorite track off of Decade Dance is “Skin of Our Teeth.” As soon as the song opened with a strange sounding bass harmonics, and even stranger guttural vocals that resemble Tibetan throat-singing, I was captivated. Then the other instruments join in, creating a cool, funky dance beat. Once the main part of the song kicks in, driven by some awesome slap-bass, I was hooked (like I said, I’ve always been a sucker for some funky bass). The groove in this song is undeniable, and the tasteful guitar part gives the song the perfect vibe. Telesma also incorporates Kirtan into this song, which is the musical chanting of sacred sounds, making this song nothing short of a religious experience.
The final track on the album, “Be Here” is a fascinating, meditative track. Aside from the opening spoken line, “If I should die tomorrow, I would still be here today,” the song is largely instrumental, with the vocals functioning as another instrument. I am not even sure what instruments are used in the song, but this unique piece draws the listener in and takes them on a journey – where this journey takes you is up to the listener.
If you are looking for catchy, danceable music that breaks the musical mold yet remains highly accessible, I would highly recommend Decade Dance. Between the alternating rhythms, impressive instrumentals, and enlightened spiritual lyrics, Telesma is able to translate their fantastic live atmosphere to the studio. Although the band’s Wikipedia page states that the band has been compared to other acts such as Pink Floyd, Tabla Beat Science, King Crimson, Ravi Shankar, Thievery Corporation, Tool and Peter Gabriel, I would argue that sound of Decade Dance is comparable to only one band: Telesma.