Mark Templeton: Gentle Heart

Preceded by Scotch Heart (2011) and Jealous Heart (2013), Gentle Heart, the concluding chapter in Mark Templeton's Heart trilogy, straddles multiple temporal realms in its coupling of decaying sound fragments with modern-day production techniques. It's a thoroughly contemporary music, on the one hand, music redolent of an era whereby the entire history of recorded music is ripe for plunder and re-presentation; as Gentle Heart's hauntological material plays, one could be forgiven for thinking someone must have granted Templeton access to the last half-century of the CBC's radio archives. It's also heavily tied to the past, its wobbly character making it sound like the kind of material one would hear after rescuing old reel-to-reel or cassette tapes from some damp, long-forgotten box in an attic or basement. While Gentle Heart carves out its own distinct niche within contemporary music practice, it nevertheless suggests kinship with fellow time travelers such as William Basinski, James Leyland Kirby (operating in his The Caretaker mode, specifically), and Philip Jeck.

Throughout the thirty-three-minute album (issued in a limited vinyl run of 300 copies), Templeton's shape-shifters stutter and hiccup; loops lurch, convulse, and tumble over themselves, straying from their paths before righting and re-aligning themselves. Electronic warbles and static drape themselves across heaving rhythm foundations, with an occasional fragment of acoustic piano or electric guitar separating itself from the cloudy mass to draw some momentary connection to recognizable instrument terrain. During “Horizontal Plane,” for example, a muted horn figure slowly emerges from a flickering mass to makes its presence felt, whereas synthetic bleeps and bloops of various alien kinds extricate themselves from the decidedly vocal-less churn of “Voices.”

Allusions to particular song forms occur by way of track title and compositional structure but refracted and distorted so severely that the reference is almost lost. In one of the more direct references, the dusty twang of a steel guitar in the first part of “Gentle Story” aligns the material to country music, while the relaxed splendour of the second part does much the same, even if the inclusion of synthesizer washes loosens the reins, so to speak. Had Templeton decided to add beats of some metronomic kind to the eleven tracks, the album might even begin to suggest an attempt on his part to breathe tentative new life into the glitch-ridden, clicks'n'cuts movements of a few decades ago. Modest in duration it might be, yet Gentle Heart never feels less than substantial.

June 2017