Words by Tyler Walicek
Tele Novella, a macabre-pop outfit from Austin, Texas, will be headlining the Brick & Mortar Music Hall this coming Wednesday. Their two albums make it clear that Tele Novella is a versatile and seasoned band, capable of drawing from a number of genres: the heartsick girl-group laments of the '50s and '60s, psych rock of the latter era (The Turtles in particular come to mind), the foreboding desert tones pioneered by spaghetti Westerners like Ennio Morricone, and modern-day dream pop.
Two albums in, the group has an established and confident sound. Tele Novella features a rhythm section recruited from the ashes of the endlessly catchy and sadly defunct Voxtrot. Behind the mic is Natalie Gordon, using her well-cured timbre to great effect. Her tone perfectly complements some of the darker elements of the group’s music—as in “Hair of the Dog,” a song that paints killing a hangover with whiskey as a witch’s-brew kind of black magick ("Cauldron in the middle of the night / Add the barley, add the rye..."). It’s all very cheeky — at once morbid and charming — and both of Tele Novella’s albums, Cosmic Dial Tone and House of Souls, merit a thorough listen.
Opening for Tele Novella is Pearl Charles, who resembles the headliner in that both acts gravitate toward lurid desert-psych sashays. On some songs off her 2015 self-titled debut, however, Pearl Charles foregoes the campiness for emotional sincerity, as on the gorgeous and sweeping “Idea to Her.” No matter the attitude of the song, the sound of Charles’ exquisite voice lilting over twanging desert-doom guitar lines while the Wurlitzer vamps and the drums groove deeply makes for an impactful listen.
In keeping with the general theme of eeriness is opener Spooky Mansion, whose ghostly name belies their blend of dancey, grooving psych-funk. Despite the name, their music is more happy hour than haunted house. Their self-titled debut EP was followed by the release of several singles and another EP, I’m The Moon, You’re The Wave, that are equal parts Parliament and Massive Attack. Drum samples and electronic sounds ring out between garage-rock vocals, prickling guitar lines, and waves of shimmering reverb. The band’s sound can shade into soul at times, with strong overtones of funk and certain carnival-esque touches.
Head over to the Brick & Mortar Music Hall on Wednesday to catch these three distinctly original yet complementary bands.
Tele Novella, Pearl Charles, Spooky Mansion
Brick + Mortar Music Hall
March 29, 2018