Anticipate Recordings, 2009
Mark Templeton continues his humble electro-acoustic balancing act on Inland, using stringed instruments, drums, field recordings and his own voice with sensitive, effective processing, playing with stillness and rhythm, visible, warm melodies and smeared, distorted meanderings, pulses to hold onto and hollowed caves to get lost in. One hears the clear plucking of the guitar and banjo at times, and at others they fuel a thick wall of texture. This dichotomy of near and far is at the center of the album and its production background, as it oscillates between spacious remoteness and sonic close-ups.
Beginning work in geographically remote Edmonton, Alberta, Templeton continued and eventually finished the material after moving to the urban center of Montreal, which, in the usual paradox of urban centers, imposed the solitary remoteness of being away from friends and family and routine in a crowded, yet isolating environment. Without setting out to conceptualize the music in these terms, the experience of both being too far away from strangers and then too close to too many strangers can be heard and interpreted nonetheless. As complement and extension of these ideas of music born out of circumstance, and not a vacuum, Inland was begun before and completed after Templeton's recently released audio-visual collaboration with aAron Munson, Acre Loss. In contrast to that project, Inland is less overtly pastoral, even while exploring similar themes. Where Acre Loss feels like an opening into a wilderness, Inland is more enclosed, filling a more specific space, and quite naturally reflecting back the movement of circumstance surrounding its creation. It's still outdoors, but with a sense of borders rather than an endless plain. Working within these confines has yielded Templeton's most abundant work to date, a modern experimental campfire music, which retains a subtle folkiness while acknowledging that this campout is only a five-minute ride from the comforts and technology of the big city and its big machines.
Templeton makes extensive use of his voice as a melodic sound source, never uttering a word, but using the human sound as a layer which pulls you in and makes the most of its inherent gravity. Just as the voice sings out and is then quickly distanced and obscured, the song-like-structure of these pieces takes shape and then dissipates, leaving the shadows of guitar, banjo, voice, percussion and field recording elements. It's as if the formality of a pop song would be too presumptuous and this work instead searches for a more personal and indirectly endearing quality. Rather than laying out his story for you, Templeton opens it for the listener to attach his/her experiences and associations and leave with an individualized impression.
One can hear the seeds of Inland on Templeton's stunning, critically acclaimed Standing on a Hummingbird, which inaugurated the Anticipate label in early 2007. Since that album, he has developed a more fully realized version of his sound, bathing it in a similar haze, but in a less handled, edited manner. By stepping back just a bit, and giving the sounds some more air, he has forged a stronger identity and found a place on a tightrope between electronic processing, folk ambient music and an instrumental practice which doesn't sacrifice anything, evoking windswept highways viewed through dirty glass, but with a crowd of people jammed into the seats, playing the radio alongside the natural acoustics of the interior.