It feels like it was only a matter of time before we heard Telyscopes and Echo Lad together on a split. The far-out Philly bands have some lineup overlap in guitarist Charlie Dubuc and bassist Michael Horvath, and Telyscopes frontman Jack Hubbell has recorded the last two Echo Lad releases. Echo Lad / Telyscopes lives in that strange, satisfying intersection even as it gets at each project’s particular strengths.
The two Echo Lad tracks come from Dusking, the full-length album Dubuc and Horvath–along with drummer RJ O’Neil–released in 2019. “Ambler” taps into the trio’s midwest emo influence in its moody vocals and jittery riffing. The instrumental title track, featuring synths by Hubbell, leans more toward manic math rock in its rhythmic skips and lightning-fast acoustic runs.
Together, they give a good cross-section of Dusking, an album that combines the trio’s adventurous musicianship and evocative soundscapes with a feeling of groundedness and heart. Their lyrics have a way of placing personal reflection in the context of something more cosmic, and it’s that specific blend that earned the title track a place in my Starfinder RPG inspiration playlist when it first dropped last year.
On the other hand, the Telyscopes tracks, featuring drummer Patty Hamill, give a glimpse of the future.
“Be Nimble” is a teaser for Pander, a new EP coming this February. Lyrically, Hubbell draws a hard line on artistic stagnation–he’d rather die than rehash the lo-fi fuzz of his past work to appease the fans. Love or hate his edgy sense of humor, there’s no ignoring the words; a sticky 5/4 beat keeps you hooked in at every turn, before a slick shift into 4/4 to play through the chorus of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” trembling guitar replacing the iconic organ.
“Turning” comes from the band’s next full-length, With a Y. References to William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming and an angular, synthy breakdown make it a more oblique, foreboding track. Like “Be Nimble,” it puts another link in the chain of biblical allusions that have crept into Hubbell’s writing over the years, giving it an air of intrigue–lofty as his falsetto–to balance his more grotesque moments.
If you’ve never listened to Echo Lad or Telyscopes, this is probably not the most accessible introduction, if there is such a thing. But it’s dark, inventive, and remarkably cohesive–a nice look at the ongoing growth of two of Philly’s most interesting independent acts, each as expressive as they are out-there.