Review: "The Telephone Projects Makes Love With Bear Creek"

The Telephone Projects/Bear Creek - Split
(2013 Self-Released)
"Booming, vacuum-like drones weigh on the listener with the pull of the abyss"

In my opinion, there's nothing that can quite match the curious combination of Casiotone keyboard, fuzzy tape deck hiss and buckets of reverb. While harnessing the energy of these classic elements of bedroom pop, The Telephone Projects and Bear Creek manage to bypass a few of the tired tropes of the lo-fi keyboard genre, forming a collaborative effort that's unnerving and beautifully cavernous. Rarely does such an enormous sound come from such minimal instrumentation.

On your first listen, you'll probably most enjoy The Telephone Projects' half of this split release. Bringing his gravelly voice and a deep, elegiac ambience to the table, Brennon Manning's funereal pop delivery acts as a dark counterbalance to the glut of pleasant sounding, yet sterile keyboard projects that have appeared in the past couple years, like that of Hearts Bonfire and Secrets. Booming, vacuum-like drones seem to weigh on the listener with the pull of the abyss, giving one the dizzy feeling you get when looking over the side of a cliff. It's so inviting to gaze into the keyboard abyss on the album's highlight, "Luigi's Haunted Mansion" that you might miss out on the way the upbeat rhythm of the track is tamed by brooding lyrics and dark, low-fidelity distortion.

The Telephone Projects' side of the split transitions seamlessly into Bear Creek's, each hissing with the same amount of background grime. Musically, though, each band offers a completely different brand of songcraft. Bear Creek's sound is sporadic, and mostly instrumental, weaving spooky ambient jams on his piano and acoustic guitar. The two shoegaziest selections to be found here, "Freeway Fears" and "This Is How I Feel Sometimes" borrow a spaced-out, underwater tone from Sigur Ros; buoyant chords are complimented by weighty plunk of piano keys and the after-buzz of guitar strings. This album's surreal vibe makes for good Halloween listening material. You might want to consider playing it while passing out candy tomorrow.