Live review: Teleman at KOKO, London, 14.4.


Midway through a European tour, KOKO greeted local London indie band Teleman with open arms. It came at a good time – they had just released their second album and would be popping off to France again in a couple of days.

The grand majesty of Camden’s KOKO is not what you’d automatically associate with Teleman, who, despite being a throwback of sorts, are robotic in comparison to the archaic walls that surrounded them. Support acts Creepy Neighbour and NZCA LINES took us to the era that we would stay in for the entirety of the evening, with a distinctly 80’s feel to both sets, before the main event dragged you even further to another time.

It’s no question that Teleman are a band in transition – following a strong but serious first album, follow-up Brilliant Sanity saw them bring out their infectious sense of fun with a selection of finely crafted hits. Mixing the two albums together into a set is a task in itself, and it seems that they’re still getting used to jumping around a bit.

The result, at least at first, was an on-stage persona that wasn’t pure Kraftwerkian stillness, wasn’t an exuberantly clumsy indie band, but something uncomfortably in-between. Whether it was the size of the stage, which left each member weirdly isolated, or the forced staticity of half the band, the energy of the performance felt unbalanced and almost forced for the first 20 minutes. Lead singer Thomas Sanders would occasionally break away for a walkabout guitar solo, and bassist Pete Cattermoul always had a slight jig in his step, but one way or another, it didn’t seem to quite fit.

That’s not to say that the quality of the music wasn’t up to scratch. As you’d expect from a clean-cut indie pop band, everything was precise and perfectly executed, and each song was packed full of great hooks. Opener ’Strange Combinations’ had just the right amount of 80’s to it, and allowed Sanders’ delicate vocal to hover over a pumped up retro synth. What followed was a clinical run-through of both albums in tandem.

The serene and relaxed ‘Brilliant Sanity’ and ‘English Architecture’ showed off the class of the new album, and then new pop banger ‘Tangerine’ arrived. A high octane slice of guitar-fuelled fuzz, it sent the audience into raptures and was a turning point in the set. After that, everything felt freer, more at home, and let the other songs flow a lot easier.

In fact, other than ‘Tangerine’ it was the slower, calmer songs that really seemed to find the band in their comfort zone. The comparatively low-key “Cristina”, the lead single off their first album, was greeted warmly; after all their keen attempts at energy, the decision to slow it down showed a new depth to their sound.

The night was rounded off by a string of instant hits – the hypnotic ‘Fall In Time’ was followed by the closest thing to an anthem that Teleman have, the driving and spinning ‘Glory Hallelujah’; it allowed to Sanders to really open up his lungs and holler for just about the only time tonight. A rough, untamed performance was exactly what the crowd wanted and needed.

 Despite their awkward stage presence, Teleman played a hypnotic set. Photo: Roosa Päivänsalo

Despite their awkward stage presence, Teleman played a hypnotic set. Photo: Roosa Päivänsalo

An encore that included the song ‘Not In Control’, then, was just about the perfect ending song they could have chosen. A rich blend of everything that made up the set – hypnotic repetition, catchy hooks, retro robotic vibes and enough guitars to become unruly – it showed what Teleman had been attempting to manage all night, and showed what’s likely to come from them. It may have taken a while to get there, but the fruits of their labours were certainly rewarding. 

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