Published Sep 10, 2019Freak folk soundscaper Luke Temple's sixth full-length album dares to be many things at once. From electronic jaunts to guitar ballads to drone-drenched digressions, Both-And floats through several meticulously arranged worlds, offering an album that is both unrepentantly intimate and disconcertingly unsettled.
Having established his talent for matching pop hooks with lush instrumentals as bandleader for indie rock Brooklynites Here We Go Magic, Temple's Both-And gives only a cursory nod to pop, opting instead to indulge in dense soundscapes and genre-defying experimentation. Rather than finding a centre in a particular narrative or set of instruments, the 12 songs on Both-And have little in common, other than Temple's characteristic vulnerability and dynamic arrangements.
Though Temple's songwriting is purposefully ambiguous throughout, the text tends to suit the sonic texture. Addressing moments of precarity, nostalgia and loss — and often focusing on observations of the natural world — the ambiguity of the lyrical content a journey with no firm destination.
Throughout Both-And are moments of transcendence. "Wounded Brightness" is reminiscent of Devendra Banhart both in the wicked tenderness of the vocal delivery, and its lo-fi sonic textures that describes the moon as "a hovering sage, an empty page." The interplay between marimba and bass on "Given Our Good Life" gives the song a gentle forest groove — heightened by rural descriptions of "sheep / grazing on the hillside steep" — which ventures into digital glitches, saxophone swamps and organ hits with meditative dedication. In "Least of Me," the album's most melancholic dreamscape, Temple hums with quiet wonder, "the trees are singing songs to each other underground."
However, some of Temple's adventures feel more like meandering digressions. The end of the "Taking Chances," the sole electric guitar ripper on the album, carries on into lo-fi murk to a distracting degree. "200,000,000 Years of Fucking" — a wearied update of St. Vincent's Strange Mercy record mixed with a lethargic Beach House dreaminess — also feels excessive and ultimately unrewarding. "Henry in Forever Phases," an unexpected summery guitar jam, lightens the mood, but feels hollow between the other sonically dense tracks.
Both-And is, in the most rewarding and challenging ways, an impactful journey. Through dedicated sonic craft and vocal tenderness, Luke Temple has delivered an album that is both intimate and wild. (Native Cat)