Mark Templeton: Jealous Heart
Under The Spire Recordings

When Mark Templeton's first recordings appeared, including those under the Fields Awake name (such as the 2006 self-titled release) as well as under his birth name (starting with Standing on a Hummingbird, the Anticipate album that followed a year later), there was some hint that his music might evolve in somewhat of a post-rock direction, or at least retain some connection to the genre, especially when Templeton's skills as a guitarist were so plainly evident. Fast-forward six years and the territory looks dramatically different. Going by Jealous Heart (issued in an edition of 300 vinyl LPs), Templeton is today more collagist than guitarist, someone intent on shaping myriad sounds, sampled and otherwise, into cubistic set-pieces. One now thinks of Philip Jeck as Templeton's closest analogue, the obvious difference being Jeck's signature focus on old vinyl and record players versus Templeton's embrace of modern-day production methods. Even so, both artists' work is characterized by a similar wooziness that invites the comparison.

That sensibility infuses the wonderfully titled opener “Buffalo Coulee” and its mind-bending array of broken melodies (voiced by guitar and acoustic bass) and a production design speckled with pops, clicks, and assorted noises. A similar mangling of acoustic instrument sounds (horns, drums, organ) occurs during “Once Were Down,” which convulses like a drunken sailor stumbling homeward. In one of the most audacious pieces, “Kingdom Key,” a speaking voice is shredded to a point of unintelligibility before a second vocal episode hints at an actual song melody, even if the singing is more of a croak. The found sound dimension of Templeton's music is most explicitly heard in the clattering noises that animate “A Distant Hum,” while the closing “Straits” plays it (relatively) straight in allowing its sea-cruise horns to fill the decks with dream-like tones in an almost unaltered form (the warbly break-down at the end notwithstanding).

Templeton's pieces play like electroacoustic collisions where strings and horns bob to the murky surface alongside found sounds, tape hiss, and other detritus—that so-called murk nowhere more densely captured than in “Carved and Cared For,” an opaque field of blurry detonations and sickly horn warble, and in “Flat3,” within whose hazy lurch a rare glimpse of Templeton's electric guitar playing is audible. Listening to Jealous Heart, I'm reminded of Bizarro Superman, the twisted mirror version of the superhero that sometimes appeared within the DC Comics saga. In the spirit of that figure, Templeton's album presents a kind of deliberately crafted anti-music that turns conventions repeatedly on their head.

March 2013