In the twelve months that have passed since the release of Telafonica’s preceding mini-album I Saw This And Thought Of You, there have certainly been some substantial changes within the Sydney-based band. While founding member David Hughes is now based in the UK (though he’s still responsible for the album artwork here, three new members – Eliza Magill, Rebecca Elmer and Blake Wassell now augment original founder member Adrian Elmer. It’s a change that’s immediately apparent upon listening to this latest album. While I Saw This… saw Telafonica fashioning tracks still primarily geared around synths and electronics, Love On The Second Stair positively drips with increased sonic detail and live instrumentation, with glockenspiels, cornet and even curtain rods being pressed into service amongst the nine tracks collected here.
With all three new members contributing vocals and songwriting, there’s also more of a tangible ‘band’ atmosphere, as well as noticeably more stylistic variation. Opening track ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ manages to carry more than a stray hint of Animal Collective’s psychedelic rush as tumbling percussion and rattling textures give way to harmonised group vocals and the lush fusion of buzzing synths, rock guitars and tribal drumming, the latter element in particular calling to mind one of Caribou’s blissful wanders.
The electronics manage to rear their heads more on crisp electro-pop offering ‘Smells Like Rain’, with thick analogue synths and digitally-edited handclaps powering their way beneath Adrian Elmer’s slightly treated vocals, but in this case the more overtly synthetic elements are nicely counterbalanced by the crashing live cymbals and jangly guitar figures that play against them. The same is certainly true of ‘But I Lose Myself’ – with its insistent almost-house rhythm, sudden bursts of tripped-out synths and nagging melodic riff, it’s easily the most dancefloor-centred moment here; but in this case, the weary-sounding group harmonies and wheezing harmoniums manage to take it to a different place entirely. Elsewhere, the delicate ‘The Quest For Love Aboard The Belafonte’ sees typewriters providing an intriguingly effective rhythmic base for elegant piano keys and melancholic female vocals, while ‘Aeowyn And The Absolute Truth’, easily this record’s most stripped-back and direct moment, sees slow, rasping cello tones and swelling bass atmosphere forming an appropriately subtle backdrop for Elmer’s spiralling, delayed-out vocal harmonies. Love On The Second Stair manages to impress with both its level of ambition and diversity, making it easily the strongest release I’ve heard from Telafonica, as well as an intriguing new direction.