Telekinesis returns with Ad Infinitum, their fourth full length album, following on the heels of three relatively well-received, but perhaps underappreciated, power pop releases. Michael Benjamin Lerner, the mastermind and sole member of Telekinesis has detailed the differences that were attendant upon the making of this album. Having achieved a certain level of success, Lerner found himself with the luxury of being able to record the album alone on his own time at his own home studio, as opposed to having to rush through the process on a tight budget like on his first three releases. But it didn’t turn out as easy as planned.
Lerner was initially ecstatic about having the ability to build his own studio to his own specifications. But then, as he sat down in his own private space to write, he was overwhelmed by the sound of silence. The dreaded writer’s block had impeded upon his new creative oasis. Or so the story goes, as related by Lerner himself in a story posted on Medium.com a few days after the album’s release. Goaded by his inability to come up with anything on guitar, he began collecting vintage synthesizers and drum machines and fashioning an entirely new sound. But, truth be told, Lerner has hinted at this direction in the past, particularly on “Ever True” and “Ghosts and Creatures” from 2013’s Dormarion. It is also good to keep in mind the fact the Lerner is by trade a drummer, not a guitarist, so it shouldn’t be totally surprising that he reached a dead end on the six-string. But it certainly hasn’t resulted in a dead end on his music. Ad Infinitum may actually be the most accomplished Telekinesis album yet.
Of course, 80’s flashbacks aren’t entirely uncommon in today’s indie world, but there’s a difference here. While most synth music comes across as somewhat bleak, Lerner has a secret weapon in the form of his Beatles-esque vocal harmonies, which have been a staple of Telekinesis recordings since the very beginning. They offer a warm counterpoint to the cold synths that actually make this music seem fun. This is evident right from the start on “Falling (In Dreams),” a striking number featuring a gorgeous, soaring vocal line that truly takes the song to another level. The same story applies to “Its Not Yr Fault”, which is one of the true standouts on the album, and “Sleep In,” which clearly betrays Lerner’s admitted affinity for Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. Meanwhile, “In A Future World” sounds like it could have come straight off of Upstairs At Eric’s, or Speak and Spell-era Depeche Mode. It is certainly not without a nod and a wink that Lerner uses the 80’s children’s toy of the same name on several songs on Ad Infinitum.
It would not be entirely accurate to say that all of these songs are exclusively synth-driven. The percussive beats of “Sylvia” make it one of the catchiest Telekinesis songs ever, which is no small task, while “Courtesy Phone” and the percolating, infectiously upbeat “Edgewood” could easily fit on any Telekinesis set list. Of course, it is once again the vocal melodies that make Ad Infinitum of a piece with prior Telekinesis releases. We clearly see the difference on the majestic instrumental “Ad Infinitum, Pt. 1”, which lacks the sunny melodies necessary to melt the icy synths and hence has a more traditional 80’s cold and clinical feel. Nevertheless, it melds perfectly into companion piece “Ad Infinitum, Pt. 2,” a haunting piano ballad that brings Ad Infinitum to a dazzling close.
So Lerner has taken a difficult situation and turned it entirely to his advantage. Having served as somewhat of an afterthought in the big wide world of indie rock over the last few years, he has moved into an entirely new direction without losing who he was in the first place. The result may truly prove to be Telekinesis’ signature release.
David A. Bene is a freelance journalist who, during the day, works at a ‘real’ job bringing home the bacon. But at night, when everything comes alive, he can’t help but regularly indulge in two of his greatest passions…writing and music. Put the dude at a corner table with a laptop and some tunes and what do you get? Why, the guy who writes album reviews for Live from the Internet, of course! David, who has authored two books, resides in Independence, KY with his wife and four (yes, four) kids. Read more work from David here.