Telestrion, Molecule: Sideways Tunnel through Time and Space

Atlanta-based outfit Telestrion specialize in a seemingly bygone nuance within psychedelic rock. On their latest, vinyl-only EP, Molecule (self-released through Electric Mind Records), the core duo of guitarist/vocalists Andy Samford and Brian Holcomb – both of whom also handle synth and a variety of other effects and swirls – are joined by the since-ejected rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Jonathan Lee and drummer Dwayne Jones for just under 33 minutes of classic-style stoner psychedelia. The release gets progressively more tripped out, but at the heart of Telestrion’s presence is a sense of simply structured songwriting that remains accessible no matter what is subsequently layered over it. On a basic level, the songs are immediately familiar, but by sticking to a more ‘90s style of neo-psych (I do a double-take every time I see an act reference Kula Shaker as an influence), the band is actually going against the modern trend within the genre, which is typified by elements of Americana and noisy indulgences more than dreamy Beatles melodies and lines like, “Neon spaceships flying across my mind,” from the opening title-track of Molecule, the album art of which features the chemical construction of mescaline. Situation depending, I’m not sure I’d state a preference one way or another, but Telestrion more certainly align themselves to the kind of psych proffered by VALIS than fellow Atlantans Zoroaster, at times even reminding of those times when The Atomic Bitchwax slows down their riffy assault to ride out a killer groove. Their roots, however, lead them down a different path toward the pastoral, and Molecule makes its way gradually toward the sonically ethereal, the second half of the release being dedicated to farther and farther ranging jams.

Beginning that progression, then, “Molecule” makes an appropriate owner for the EP that shares its name. It’s probably the most straightforward of Telestrion’s originals here, and unquestionably the best chorus. Centered around a memorable, driving riff, it remains psychedelic and laid back despite being carried across with considerable energy, in no small part thanks to a compressed-sounding production and subdued melodic vocals. Neither Samford nor Holcomb is showy on guitar, but both come together to serve the song well, and as it’s been five years since they released their self-titled debut full-length – the band came together in 2007 in the wake of disbanding the guitarists’ prior unit, Qualone – that’s probably a good way to go. “Molecule” ends with an engaging lead nonetheless, and that sets up the extra percussion of the three-minute instrumental “Tunnel in the Sky” well. One might consider the song a jump in a less grounded direction, but even as the guitars veer into effects noise and swirling leads, Lee and Jones (the latter also a veteran of Qualone) hold down a solid rhythmic foundation. The song also finds companion brevity-wise in the 2:11 “Slightly Sideways,” which opens side B of the vinyl, so there’s some structure to be found on an album level there as well. Before flipping the platter, however, Telestrion break out a cover of Black Sabbath’s A National Acrobat. They slow it slightly, but the Tony Iommi riff is unmistakable, and given its due by Holcomb and Samford, who play the starts and stops well off each other and effectively capture the Ozzy “You’ve gotta believe me/I want you to listen!” yell, echoing out into the musical space their atmosphere has created. It’s not a bold cover, but it’s a sincere cover, and that honesty goes a longer way than it might had Telestrion tried to out-obscure their audience in their selection. As the pace picks up for the lead section in the last minute and a half, the extent of the band’s sincerity becomes clear, and it feeds into the overarching charm of Molecule. 6:52 well spent.

“Slightly Sideways” fades in to launch side B with a bit of fanfare, spaced-out leads topping percussion and a subtle low-end build from Lee. It may be the guitarists at the fore throughout Molecule, but the rhythm section proves stalwart nonetheless, and as “Slightly Sideways” answers back to “Tunnel in the Sky,” it’s only through the grooving push that makes it able to do so so effectively, Samford and Holcomb having space to freak out as they will because of Lee and Jones’ grounding presence. The remaining two tracks on Molecule are the longest – “Time and Space” at 6:59 and “The Sacred Relics” at 7:39 – and put together with “Slightly Sideways,” it becomes apparent just how far Telestrion have brought the listener from the verse/chorus beginnings of the EP. “Time and Space” is not without its structure; a chorus provides an engaging rendering of quiet Floydian psychedelia, seeming throughout to be promising a reunion on the dark side of the moon even as they inform that space is old and time can see. They’re never too far from the pattern they establish, but the jam embarked on in the second half of the song is both far out and a heavy kind of apex. Nonetheless, the chorus comes back for another round and provides a fitting end leading into the 7:39 instrumental closer “The Sacred Relics.” I don’t know what the recording situation was for the final track, but it sounds lower-fi and less lush than “Time and Space,” which comes out all the more in its quiet beginning, the cymbal wash of which is far less full than some of the others scattered throughout Molecule. Whatever the case, the build that Telestrion then undertake is the EP’s most linear, very much starting in one place and ending in another, more chaotic, noisier place entirely. The status of the band remains uncertain as Holcomb and Samford are currently without a rhythm section – I don’t know and won’t speculate as to what happened there – but like the self-titled before it, Molecule shows the six-stringers as having a penchant for blending the psychedelic rock of the late ‘60s with the heavy rock mindset that took shape some 30 years later, and the finish that “The Sacred Relics” provides demonstrates clearly that the band is not at all bound by one form or another within their overall sphere. That can only serve them well as they continue their progression, and hopefully it’s not another five years before they follow Molecule with a sophomore full-length. The world needs this kind of unpretentious psych.

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