Sometimes moving forward necessitates looking back. For the fourth Telekinesis LP, Michael Lerner ditched the traditional instruments that built his power pop sound and cozied up in his basement with vintage synthesizers. The resulting album, Ad Infinitum, is a record of warm middle grounds. The sonic tones have shifted, without feeling like a total reinvention that scraps everything that came before it. This isn’t like (fellow Chris Walla disciples) Tegan and Sara suddenly becoming a straight synthpop band with Heartthrob, it’s more like Ad Infinitum contributor Say Hi’s electronic evolution in Endless Wonder (that album’s follow-up Bleeder’s Digest was also released in September and is worth a listen or three). The new instrumentation provides allusions to an ‘80s sound without itself feeling overtly retro, and Lerner’s effervescent songwriting core remains the same as ever.
While just entering the realm, Lerner showcases a knack for creating starkly different electronic soundscapes with his collection of sold synths. Ad Infinitum opens with a forebodingly cold throb of deep bass and a pulsating drum machine on “Falling (In Dreams)”, counterbalanced by the inviting warmth and digital clarity Lerner’s vocals. “Sleeping In” effectively feels like a drowsy EDM track, as if a dance floor banger was slowed down to half speed. “It’s Not Yr Fault” veers into chiptune-esque territory, sounding like advanced version of a twitchy, action-packed 8-bit Mega Man level’s soundtrack. There’s still a dash of power pop throughout the record. “Sylvia” simply transposes the genre into an electronic realm, while “Courtesy Phone” is throwback Telekinesis complete with guitars and physical drums making up the backing track as Lerner playfully muses “It’s always blah blah this and blah blah that / Everybody knows, everybody always falls flat.”
Lerner’s songwriting on Ad Infinitum—while more specific than said blah blahs—open-endedly touches upon themes of the future and sleep and seasons and distance. The searching lyrics parallel Lerner’s quest for new sonic territory. It’s not entirely clear if Lerner found what he’s looking in this new chapter of Telekinesis, but the journey is beautiful none the less.