To celebrate its fiftieth release, Temporary Residence invited bands from its roster to submit new songs for a compilation, the 11-song TRR50 Thank You. Acknowledging that compilations by their nature are “supposed to be shitty,” the label believes this one is “pretty damned amazing.” Well! Look Upon Temporary Residence’s Works, Ye Mighty, And Despair! How mighty are these works?
You “might” want to skip the first two tracks, especially Howard Hello’s “The One,” which sounds like the soundtrack to a never-made-after-school special that I probably wouldn’t-want-to-watch anyway. Things pick up with Kilowatthours’s clever “Jignauseum,” which mixes in and out of two versions of the same song: one a Slint-y, loopy rumble, the other an electric-guitar freak-out.
Next comes a trifecta of instrumental rock. If Sylvia Plath had heard Tarentel’s “Bell Jar,” she might have pulled her head out of the oven in time. This track is full of overtones, dynamics, and guitars dripping all over each other. Then … hey, who invited Rush? Really. You can call it math-rock, but it’s dead. Rumah Sakit is one fluffy neckline away from being Rick Wakeman. Next, Explosions in the Sky brings back the meandering post-rock picking with “The Long Spring.”
The album picks up with the best track, Kammerflimmer Kollectief’s “Eiderdaunen.” They accomplish what musicians in Baltimore’s experimental scene are able to pull off with improbable frequency: mixing unusual sounds (crickets, nail files dragged across triangles, string squeaks, bleeps ‘n’ bloops, brushed snares, Arco bass) into a meaningful whole without evoking what Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher once squarely termed the “willful eclecticism of the college freshman.” Things keep moving nicely after this: Sybarite’s “Moonshine” is a page-turner, and Parlour adds a needed dose of energy with the overdriven bass and tweaked-out vintage keyboards of “Landlaked.”
The comp comes to a screeching halt at Halifax Pier’s “And California.” The loping, Harvest-esque beat and phoned-in vocals would make this song completely forgettable if it weren’t for the catchy, Triple-A-ready chorus. Ultimately, though, this song is just one more argument for a five-year moratorium on the cello. I listened to this track in my living room with the window open, and the wind chime on the porch mixed in perfectly … in a bad way. But the wind chime worked in a good way on Sonna’s “The Closer.” You know it’s Sonna from the first note: the sound of reverie. If this song is an outtake from Smile and the World Smiles with You, they could have left it on and I would have bumped their rating up to a 4.0.
Thank You ultimately falls somewhere in between “shitty” and “amazing,” sometimes bouncing from one to the other. But it’s not fair to judge compilations that way. Comps are only shitty if you think of them as albums. They’re not albums; they’re compilations of the music on a given label. Ultimately any review of a compilation is a review of a record label, and apparently Temporary Residence finds itself amazing. I won’t go that far. They’ve got their thing: mostly instrumental, partly electronic, sometimes innovative. Sybarite’s pastiches and Kammerflimmer Kollectief’s soundscapes fall into this category, as do the meanderings of Sonna and Kilowatthours. Overall, it’s relaxing, meditative stuff.
Which makes me wonder: Am I too young to be listening to this? Shouldn’t I get my rock ‘n’ roll in while I’m young? When we’re all middle-aged, Temporary Residence — if they ditch the prog rock — will be our Windham Hill. By that point in my life, I’ll be happy to sit on my porch, under my wind chime, and be anesthetized by the soothing sounds of balding post-rockers. Now, it mostly sets me brooding.