Here We Go Magic: s/t
Western Vinyl

Luke Temple's self-titled debut under the Here We Go Magic guise splits itself between two rather unrelated genres (more like three if you count the closer), the first an African-influenced singer-songwriter style reminiscent of Graceland-era Paul Simon (think Remain In Light-meets-Bookends) and the second a hallucinatory electronic drones style which has roots in kosmische musik and Popol Vuh. What results is a collection that's best broached on song-by-song terms rather than as an entire album where the impression left is more disconcerting by comparison.

Regardless, the opening four songs clearly show Temple's got a way with melody. Though it's impossible to hear the opener “Only Pieces,” with its marriage of African percussion poly-rhythms and Paul Simon-like vocals, and not think of Graceland, the song's feverish propulsion and chants are compelling, and the subsequent “Fangela” merges buoyant swing and Simon & Garfunkel harmonies into a seductive and kaleidoscopic whole that's as powerful. After the funky, bass-prodded “Ahab” takes its turn, “Tunnelvision” barrels forth with a blissfully pumping mix of acoustic guitars and ecstatic vocals.

The album then shifts gears, with three of the next four pieces barely connected to the ones before: “Ghost List” establishes itself as a churning dronescape of epic sweep in less than five minutes; “Nat's Alien” unfolds in a series of psychedelic, brain-addling loops that transport the listener to the center of the ‘70s krautrock galaxy; and “Babyohbabyijustcantstanditanymore” thrums and throbs like someone rapidly clattering a stick in a drainpipe and then amplifying the distorted results. Meeting halfway between the two styles, “I Just Want to See You Underwater” submerges the listener in a blurry mass of pulsating afro-beat rhythms and chanted vocals.

Temple recorded the album's material solo (at his Greenpoint, Brooklyn home using analog synths, a cassette four-track, and an SM-57 mic) except for the closer, “Everything's Big,” where he's joined by four others on guitar, bass, drums, and piano. The group delivers the song's reggae-tinged lilt with a raucous and almost drunken abandon which, again, is out of step with the rest of the material. Apparently Here We Go Magic isn't the first time Temple's defied pigeon-holing, as he purportedly also spanned genres on his full-length debut Hold a Match for a Gasoline World and the follow-up Snowbeast. If Here We Go Magic lacks the kind of unifying cohesiveness some of us prefer, that admittedly may be less of a crippling weakness in an era of single-track downloads than it might have been years ago.

February 2009