Telenova – ‘Tranquilize’ review: a majestic debut from a band in its infancy

Melbourne trio offer rich, surreal vistas in their debut EP

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: Telenova’s EP ‘Tranquilize’ is a startlingly well-formed debut. It’s rare for a band to arrive with such a polished and defined aesthetic this early. This is likely down to its members’ collected pedigree: singer Angeline Armstrong, formerly of the band Beachwood, has been involved in the Melbourne film and music scene for years, while her bandmates Edward Quinn and Joshua Moriarty are respectively members of Slum Sociable and Miami Horror.

The term “cinematic” is thrown around a lot when discussing the band, likely owing to Armstrong’s career in film. It’s an unspecific term often used too freely, but not unwarranted here. Armstrong directed the video for the track ‘Tranquilize’, which visually touches on the Western-meets-high-society horror of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, albeit more fantastically and playfully than that brutal film.

Elsewhere ‘Lost Highway’ has the twang, echo and loping bass of Alessandro Alessandroni’s theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; its distorted synths sound like the composer’s iconic whistling motif, but twisted inside out and upside down.

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That the song bears the same name as a David Lynch film makes sense – Lynch, who is one of Armstrong’s influences, has often trodden through the weird wild west, be it in his own Lost Highway or Wild At Heart. And like Lynch, whose allegory-riddled films use place as a metaphor to explore interior landscapes, Telenova’s wide-open, road-trip-vistas and crimes of passion on ‘Lost Highway’ exist in the mind of its narrator rather than on a literal open road.

Another of Lynch’s favoured stomping grounds is a kind of warped ’50s nostalgia, the same kind of pin-up pastiche Lana Del Rey has traded in. Telenova deploys a similar trick by fusing nostalgia with modern R&B polish; Armstrong’s voice shares the richness of Del Rey’s delivery. But where the American star offers detached melancholia, Armstrong is right there in your head, high in the mix across the EP, sharing her thoughts in a borderline telepathic transmission.

Armstrong’s vocal delivery across the record, from the wistful ‘Comedian’ to the groove of ‘Bones’, is intoxicating – which itself is a theme on the EP’s title track. The song uses the danger of the siren’s call as a metaphor for precarious, irresistible attraction – an analogy intended to evoke the debilitating, all-encompassing power of new infatuation. The song’s hooks are undeniable; and the fact that it was apparently written and arranged the day the trio met – convened by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla at a songwriting workshop in 2020 – is testament to the band’s synchronicity so early in its existence.

Perhaps that is the most cinematic thing about Telenova: a good film transcends the individual talents of its cast and crew, seamlessly becoming something greater than the sum of its parts and transporting the viewer to another world. Telenova’s universe is so well realised you’ll be leaving footsteps in the band’s saturated deserts the moment you step through their portal.

Details

Telenova Tranquilize EP cover art 2021
  • Release date: July 2
  • Record label: Pointer Recordings
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