Teleman Impress At Exeter's Phoenix

by George Gordon


From the very moment they walked on stage, indie art-pop outfit Teleman let the audience at Exeter’s Phoenix know that they meant business. There was no fuss, no small talk, no “hello Exeter!”; they simply launched into Strange Combinations and took control of the place. The band’s stage presence, all four members standing at regular intervals across the stage, was composed and effortlessly cool, evoking a sense of Kraftwerk-like functionalism, and was pleasantly mesmerising even during the band’s more up-tempo danceable numbers.

The band remained silent in the transition between their opener and their second track, Tangerine, which got the crowd moving. However, Teleman’s enigmatic frontage came to an end just before they were about to tip into their third song. “I guess that means it’s time to talk”, said Thomas Sanders, the lead vocalist and guitarist for the band, as his brother Jonny discovers a technical fault with his Prophet 08 synth. Their machinelike presence had crumbled.

“Who’s seen us in Exeter before?” He shouts out to the crowd, a trick question given the last time Saunders had played in Exeter it was for the band Pete and the Pirates, Teleman’s previous incarnation. The error is fixed and the band plays Skeleton Dance, a catchy combination of airy synths and progressive basslines which had audience members at the front swaying.

Before the band can play another track, there is another delay – the bass player, Pete Cattermoul’s headset has exhausted the “little juice packs which keep us going”, a line which would sound more at home in a modernist poem than onstage interval banter. “We never really talk on stage”, admits T Saunders to the crowd, to which Cattermoul quickly adds “We never really talk to each other”. There is something oddly endearing about their minimalistic and deadpan interaction with one another, which is cut short as they launch into Steam Train Girl.

This transitioned smoothly into Foreign Time, which showed a different side of Teleman. The airy synths were exchanged for a psychedelic cocktail of aggressive guitar riffing, miscellaneous lead texturing and dampened red lights projected onto the audience from the stage.

For the next seven tracks of the set there was little or no interaction with the audience beyond the names of (some of) the songs being played. Perhaps the bandmembers were grateful for the quick succession given the experience of the previous technical failures and what turned into an impromptu pantomime when somebody asked loudly what the band’s favourite colours were.

A few tracks later, the band performed Brilliant Sanity, the title piece of their latest album; a beautifully crafted synthy crescendo. This was followed by Drop Out, the longest track on their latest album, boasting a long instrumental indulging in excellent guitar and drum interplay. 23 Floors Up and Dusseldorf, Teleman’s self-confessed “ode to Germany” (adhering to their Kraftwerk aesthetic) were among the highlights of the set.

Teleman gladly played an encore of two tracks, and left the stage to rapturous applause. They came across as a group of highly talented musicians doing what they love best, and I would definitely recommend seeing them live to fans and newcomers alike.