For his new Here We Go Magic project, songwriter Luke Temple insists on repeating himself. The nine tracks collected on the group's self-titled debut build from a base of loops, chants and grooves, casting hypnotic spells as they go. When it works, Temple stuns. Unfortunately, it seems he's also chosen to pad this album with formless sound collages and white-noise excursions, diluting what would have been a stellar EP's worth of material.
First, though, the highlights. Opener "Only Pieces" bubbles with tribal polyrhythms as a chorus of Luke Temples intones a series of mantras: "What's the use of dying, if I don't know when?" "There are only pieces, pieces of me." It sounds like something David Byrne and Brian Eno might have cooked up back in the day, if only Byrne had ever pried that neurotic frog out of his throat.
"Fangela," meanwhile, pretty much hits my every sweet spot as a music fan. Temple's opening acoustic strum gradually blossoms into a full-blown atmospheric pop piece. The track goes on for a full five-and-a-half minutes, but time seems to stand still while it's playing.
A shame, then, that Temple squanders much of what he builds on the album's terrific first half with a middling middle section. The 15-minute run from "Ghost List" through "Nat's Alien" plays like a lonely stretch of highway, with gray skies overhead.
Mostly built from electronic samples, the tracks simply loop over and over again, deepening their ruts as they go. Temple has a bit of a reputation as a songwriting maverick, but these experiments serve little purpose other than to kill the album's momentum.
Of course, he still has the nerve to close the collection with "Everything's Big," a tightly crafted flourish that sweeps away all of the dross that came before it. Temple finally deploys the full power of his impressive voice, singing with the pathos and desperation of a man who's just been shot in the gut. The song staggers along a 6/8 rhythm, with an accordian sweeping in through the background.
"Dammit, Luke," I thought. "Where the hell have you been for the past 15 minutes?"
Because without that mid-album coffee break, this one could've been something magic, indeed.