At a time when pop culture artifacts are recycled, rebooted and reissued to capitalize on audiences’ eagerness for nostalgia, it’s unusual to find an outfit which somehow manages to combine the sensibilities of yesteryear with an eye pointed decidedly to the future. Enter the audiovisual anomaly Telesonic 9000.
The solo project of Berlin-based American drummer and producer Dominick Gray, Telesonic 9000 weaves together genre-bending songs with kinetic mashups of mid century films to produce an inventive brand of multimedia that is as retro-savvy as it is forward looking. The ingredients which make up the music - art rock explorations, Krautrock’s calculated rigidity, and electropop synth hooks - form the basis for a type of abstract storytelling that connects America’s once-thriving enthusiasm for a brighter future to the looming uncertainty of our information revolution. This synchronization of sonic elements and stylized imagery serves as ornamentation for themes which capture an essential feeling about our relationship to time, and how the past’s visions of tomorrow impact today.
Telesonic 9000 formed in mid-2010’s Berlin, where Gray — an eclectic drummer with an art school background, then working as a session musician amidst the city’s cross-cultural creative scene — began developing a solo project based around the idea of fusing the experiences of a concert and film screening. An obsessive fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey (he claims to have read dozens of academic essays which explore interpretations of the movie), computer age aesthetics, and media-mixing artists like Björk, Massive Attack, and Kraftwerk, Gray gradually merged his movie and music interests by integrating original electronic tracks with dozens (later hundreds) of public domain archive films. Editing to sound and composing to imagery, scenes of atomic era scientists and postwar idealism were reconstructed to transmute the sense of pleasantly assured optimism into larger concepts relating to technological advancement and the human experience.
The first what-would-come-to-be-called Telesonic 9000 show was held on a visit to the US in early 2015. At a house party in Detroit, without a working projector on hand, a basement crowd danced and watched the film from a computer screen perched on a stool while Dom played drums on a platform tucked in a dark corner. After returning to Berlin (and upgrading to a larger projection setup), this show evolved into an immersive live “film concert”: a 21st-century update to the silent cinema format built around the 3-way interplay between Gray’s reactive drumming, pulsing electronics, and large future-is-now projections. He continued refining Telesonic 9000, settling on a name that evokes the latest model of an all-purpose media creation machine and globetrotting with the show to Estonian art spaces, Italian cinemas, and Tokyo alleyways. This culminated in 2019’s album and film release Progress. Recorded with 2 microphones and minimal software, the album features genre-bending trips into new wave, electropop, and chillout. Its accompanying film is a 50-minute collage of 300 decade-spanning archive movies, covering expansive topics ranging from the life cycle of human beings to the space race. A 3-week tour of Japan and a feature slot at Berlin’s Future Soundscapes Festival followed.
“Making the first show, formulating it into Progress, and all of the touring that surrounded it was really a time defined by figuring things out myself, from moment to moment. Amassing footage and pulling off a full production with very little resources, navigating my way through foreign countries, and playing for audiences - sometimes very confused audiences - who had no idea what to expect allowed me to find ways to open people up to an unusual experience.” says Dom.
Telesonic 9000's latest release is the EP E.C.H.O. It consists of driving songs that intermix rhythmic synths, spoken word samples, and Gray's distinct style of motorik drumming. It is accompanied by a music video short film that framed an audiovisual experiment held at Telesonic Research Labs. The EP and short film condense ideas relating to the promise and fallout of the computer revolution into a kinetic audiovisual presentation. Live performances and film screenings in the US and Europe will follow. After basing himself in the Midwest throughout the pandemic, Dom returned to Berlin in summer 2023.
“When paired in the right way, music and film can create a kaleidoscope of idea and emotion.”
Live in Turin, 2019