A bizarre, bold and beautiful new release from Mark Templeton on Graphical Recordings. Distorted Tourist is a 5 flexi-disc and 106 page photo/written book that winds through a succession of weekdays in the form of a unique, semi-fictional long poem. Starting on a Tuesday and ending on a Saturday (technically a Thursday, but I don’t want to give too much away), the story unfolds as a first person account of a character’s never-ending expedition to visit a dying loved one. Written as personal diary entries, author Ryan Diduck subjects his protagonist to the Kalfkaesque perils of a world where things don’t ever seem to go right.
Peppered throughout the story are pages of Mark Templeton’s photographs, his lens turned toward the minutiae of urban and industrial decay. The story and photos bear correlation, but their link is anything but clearly defined. However, the two complement each other well, along with the music (which I’ll get to). I like to think of the images as scenes from the story, areas our protagonist may have hobbled through while seeking the car they’ve misplaced, all the while cursing a soaked-through shoe from stepping in a puddle. As the travelogue unfolds, our protagonist’s grip on reality does also, to the extent that by the tale’s end the reader cannot be entirely sure of what experiences actually took place and what ones were acted out only within the complex neural networks of the brain.
Templeton’s contributions are equally dream-like, his music’s obfuscated, hypnotic textures blurring a similar line between an accurate sonic depiction of geography and one conceived entirely from imagination. The tracks are site-specific works that come in the form of flexi-discs that are slotted between the book’s pages at the beginning of each day. Each one is a short composition created from augmented field recordings captured at each mentioned location: Alland, Rosen, Coro, Tyre, and Gira. I sit here now and imagine the different realities any individual might dream up if cast into the belly of these same places, and wonder if any could tap into the romantic liminality that makes Distorted Tourist such a delight. It’s not a query I’ll ever likely have answered, which is fine, as the lure of this release is plenty enough for now. - The Alcohol Seed - July 2018
If you’re familiar with the work of Mark Templeton, you’ll know he likes to miniaturise and extemporise a context on top. In terms of musical chops, he chooses sounds that fit the rustic ambient palette, and uses contextual signposts to impression something deeper out of the material. This is what academics mean by extemporising, as far as this layman knows – what I do know is that “Distorted Tourist”, a fifteen-minute travelogue into the realms of Herzogian theoretics, is a mighty fine artefact to have, here presented as a book stroke disc operation, and without all the philosophical asides, stands without inebriation.
On its own steam the music could dissolve into the aether too quickly, but this is Templeton’s knack: he manages to surfeit the purpose of a worthy riff to continue and bubble-build throughout each recording, so that by the end of each phase, we’re left with a general happiness about how things have been going, hearing, et cetera and so on. The music is impossible to pin down to a certain few elements, always evolving without nascent unease, and always purposeful. This is the key strength of the release, whereas other producers might leave less brush daubs on the material, and let the potential decelerate into an arcadian decay.
Stylistically Templeton has always been in the same sort of cache as modern composition composers, such as Deaf Center and James Leyland Kirby (The Caretaker). But there’s greater urgency to his work than those artists and a revolvent absorbancy on the factors that can make musique concrete so delectable (see Michael Chion, Trevor Wishart, etc). The fact that over the course of five tracks so much is communicated – without the rusticness becoming chokingly soft – this is the compositional genius. I genuinely think this EP, call it that if you must, deserves to be heard by everyone, and if you were a fan of 2008’s “Standing On A Hummingbird” LP. Likewise, it’s a superb little nugget. - Fluid Radio - June 2018
While visiting family for the holidays during the winter of 2016, my friend, the artist Mark Templeton, told me over a few beers about aimless drives he began taking around the industrial district near his house in Edmonton. Templeton would take the car and randomly turn right, then left, then left, then right, in attempts to get lost in an area that he knew all too well — to make the familiar once again strange. He started to photograph the places he discovered, documenting the changing look and feel of these odd spaces of neglect and decline. Soon, a soundscape came, too.
Templeton’s experiments in psychogeography resonated with me. I understood the drive to dérive: what the French philosopher Guy Debord defined as “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” These sorts of excursions are not merely regulated by chance. No. Rules of attraction — the tourist’s prize — govern them. “The randomness of a dérive,” wrote Debord, “is fundamentally different from that of the stroll, but also that the first psychogeographical attractions discovered by dérivers may tend to fixate them around new habitual axes, to which they will constantly be drawn back.” - Cult MTL - June 2018
Mark Templeton crafts tape loop music that’s equal parts ramshackle and lilting on the final chapter of his Heart trilogy. The album shows the power of a well-trimmed piece of tape as stuttering fragments bloom into hypnotic rhythms. Though it’s easy to be mesmerized, Templeton balances it with plenty of disruption.
Loops waver unsteadily or cut out entirely, while a ferric mist of white noise covers most tracks. Yet in spite of the decay, Gentle Heart shines beautifully. ‘Range Road’ sounds like a skipping country record worn down to ambient music, while the impressionistic ‘Cab Lights’ carefully arranges blurry horn fragments. It’s as oddly beautiful as watching damaged silent film footage. - FACT - August 2017
My father’s family was originally Scotch-Irish, an ethnic group of Scots that settled in Ulster, Ireland and later emigrated Westward in droves. This is where my surname comes from. I quite literally have a Scotch Heart; my aortic valves stubbornly reach back before a time when “whiteness” meant something so ubiquitously insidious, before we had names for our aggressions but long after we started mapping and colonizing difference. Reflecting on this exodus that ultimately accounted for my present latitude is an exercise in imagining a time when “having heart” meant preserving one’s own values, hauling them around entrapped in a crest of flesh.
“It was a different time,” but it wasn’t really that different. We know now that people have been moving around for much longer than we had previously thought, trading innovations in geomancy and judgment. Jealousy had already been spotted in traces deep inside our hearts, given names, made disreputable, harnessed as a tool of oppression. Having a Jealous Heart has always meant being covetous of that which you do not have, and it’s a heart that grows as time reveals more and more of what is not ours. Growing older means standing down a longer horizon of unconquered land, and as time eventually corrupts vision, squinting at an asymptote that warps and shrinks regardless of moral vantage.
This is what nostalgia sounds like: a horizon sizzling and melting away, transubstantiating into knots of black plastic smoke; a steel string twanging in between notes of a dozen jumbled lullabies; a flugelhorn or a father’s voice beckoning across a field of soybeans; a heartstring buckling under its accumulated grime. A Jealous Heart weeps and grieves for rewind, but finding beauty in decay requires a Gentle Heart, one that keeps a steady pulse as a lonely child weeps inward, fearing a physics that dares allow for such dispassionate dissolution. A Gentle Heart appreciates a utopian’s sense of benevolent wonder, even as Utopia depreciates under barbaric eyes.
And yet, it’s any heart that’s beaten that resonates still — tuned as it were by pride, envy, and empathy — at this “Gentle Story,” one with no end but its beginnings, forever derailing off into nothingness with just enough push that its folds still smile when time ceases its absurd machinations. Play it again for good measure. - Tiny Mix Tapes - July 2017
Gentle Heart is a blissful closure to Mark Templeton‘s Heart trilogy. The soft and creamy loops are a return to paradise. These loops quickly overflow, close to being out of control but reigned in when things start to become too wild, and they still retain a sense of purpose and underlying intelligence. The loops blend into one another, splattering themselves over the music, at first spilling over into almost tropical phrases with what could be a lilting slice of Hawaii. Aloha!
Loops arrive on wafts of timid air, and the delicate snippets become jumbled up things in a jungle of delightful elements, constructing melodies out of deconstructed parts. Quivering like a bowl of neon jello, the album enjoys a high degree of smooth elegance, which is very hard to achieve (especially so when there’s a lot going on). As they daintily sidestep through these cluttered fields, the music is populated with warm wildflowers of sound.
Sometimes the bending notes stutter in and out, sounding for all the world like bright-but-dissolving major pentatonic licks or the blissfully broken melodies of country music, its notes diluted and softened by the constant presence of a light, background reverb. The music’s like a radio with tuning issues, occasionally lighting upon a clearer signal only for it to fuzz over a couple of seconds later. Electronic echoes, dashes and blips arrive in the foreground while a primary loop sits further back, acting as the stable anchor. It’s not so much experimental as it is extremely playful; its arrangements are so laid-back as to be inclined rather than reclined, and the textures are so soft it can only lean into an ambient-shaped atmosphere. Tiny segments are always being added to the original foundation, so despite the looping nature things are never stuck in a rut. As the pages close, the music continues on…and on…and on, riding through the prairie and off into the sunset. Gentle Heart is a perfect ending to this chapter. - A Closer Listen - June 2017
Preceded by Scotch Heart (2011) and Jealous Heart (2013), Gentle Heart, the concluding chapter in Mark Templeton's Heart trilogy, straddles multiple temporal realms in its coupling of decaying sound fragments with modern-day production techniques. It's a thoroughly contemporary music, on the one hand, music redolent of an era whereby the entire history of recorded music is ripe for plunder and re-presentation; as Gentle Heart's hauntological material plays, one could be forgiven for thinking someone must have granted Templeton access to the last half-century of the CBC's radio archives. It's also heavily tied to the past, its wobbly character making it sound like the kind of material one would hear after rescuing old reel-to-reel or cassette tapes from some damp, long-forgotten box in an attic or basement. While Gentle Heart carves out its own distinct niche within contemporary music practice, it nevertheless suggests kinship with fellow time travelers such as William Basinski, James Leyland Kirby (operating in his The Caretaker mode, specifically), and Philip Jeck.
Throughout the thirty-three-minute album (issued in a limited vinyl run of 300 copies), Templeton's shape-shifters stutter and hiccup; loops lurch, convulse, and tumble over themselves, straying from their paths before righting and re-aligning themselves. Electronic warbles and static drape themselves across heaving rhythm foundations, with an occasional fragment of acoustic piano or electric guitar separating itself from the cloudy mass to draw some momentary connection to recognizable instrument terrain. During “Horizontal Plane,” for example, a muted horn figure slowly emerges from a flickering mass to makes its presence felt, whereas synthetic bleeps and bloops of various alien kinds extricate themselves from the decidedly vocal-less churn of “Voices.”
Allusions to particular song forms occur by way of track title and compositional structure but refracted and distorted so severely that the reference is almost lost. In one of the more direct references, the dusty twang of a steel guitar in the first part of “Gentle Story” aligns the material to country music, while the relaxed splendour of the second part does much the same, even if the inclusion of synthesizer washes loosens the reins, so to speak. Had Templeton decided to add beats of some metronomic kind to the eleven tracks, the album might even begin to suggest an attempt on his part to breathe tentative new life into the glitch-ridden, clicks'n'cuts movements of a few decades ago. Modest in duration it might be, yet Gentle Heart never feels less than substantial. - textura - June 2017
The final part of electro-acoustic musician Mark Templeton’s ‘Heart trilogy’, arriving four years after the previous installment, “Gentle Heart” is a collection of short, wallowing atmospheres made up of slowly looping found sound patterns, distant indecipherable vocal noises, gentle sustained drone notes, tape effects and brief extracts of melodic elements.
It’s very languid and in parts rather muddy-sounding, as though underwater, giving the whole work a very lazy feel. Pieces like “Range Road” exemplify the lethargy- truly chilled-out, with a barely clockable tempo under 70bpm well in line with a sleeping heart rate. “One Last Encore” has a slightly less passive breathing rhythm, while other pieces like “Pond” are tempo-free ambiences.
“Valley” has a more distinct guitar (or guitar-like) melodic pattern at its core, but retriggered and gently twisted. “Voice” brings ramping digital bleeps and bloops to the fore before getting weirdly squelchy as it ends. Album closer “Gentle Story” has two parts, the first a very smooth and pure ambience with a familiar feeling of closure, the second initially a more blippy and bubbly number with a sliding bass tone that’s a less orthodox, but more fitting, way to wrap up.
At only 34 minutes it’s barely more than a mini-album, with most pieces curtailed at the three-minute mark, left static without the opportunity to evolve, but it’s a nicely immersive, sleep-friendly listen- as perhaps acknowledged in the title “Horiztonal Plane” [sic]. - Chain D.L.K. - June 2017
“Attention must be paid,” says Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman, and though the words are uttered in reference to her husband Willy, the words could be said in reference to a great many things in our memory-impoverished age—cultural history among them. Too many of a country's great figures threaten to fade away if they're not kept alive in one way or another, and that general principle applies as much to Canada as anywhere else, given how rarely names such as Northrop Frye, Irving Layton, Margaret Laurence, and Robertson Davies form part of the current national conversation. With that in mind, we applaud the efforts of sound artist Mark Templeton and film-maker Kyle Armstrong for doing their part in keeping the memory of Marshall McLuhan alive in the form of the audio-visual production Extensions. It's eminently possible that someone, after being exposed to the thirty-seven-minute work, will be curious enough to seek out The Gutenberg Galaxy or Understanding Media as a result.
Extensions, the inaugural release on Templeton's Edmonton-based Graphical imprint and available in an edition of 300 (gatefold LP and DVD), is a physical embodiment of McLuhan's oft-quoted “The medium is the message” in one very real sense: as it was designed to be experienced as both an audio and visual experience, one's experience of it would suffer if it were broached as a purely audio work only—even if Templeton's contribution to the project certainly holds up when listened to sans visuals. But both dimensions are integral for Extensions to be appreciated in its intended form, given the degree of synchronicity between the sounds and images as well as the fact that the work's content incorporates both original and sampled film and audio.
Armstrong brings an experimental non-narrative approach to the heavily manipulated images. Vertical colour bars flow across the screen, and excerpts from McLuhan's writings (sample: “Depth means relating perfectly obvious things to perfectly obvious things”) accompany colour-treated footage of landscapes, faces, numbers, astronauts, nuclear blasts, and so on. Oft distressed, blurred, and obscured by bleaches, dyes, scratches, and moiré-like effects, the multi-layered display flickers in tandem with the music, itself a stuttering stream of voice snippets, woozy horn phrases, and glitchy, turntable-like scratching. Fleeting glimpses of McLuhan himself—the footage lifted from an old CBC interview or National Film Board profile—appear amidst the fluctuating flow, and the work concludes with the man himself asking, “Where would you look for the message in an electric light?”
Templeton's sound design is far removed from the kind featured on his 2007 Anticipate albumStanding on a Hummingbird, whose electro-acoustic material often orients itself around guitar playing. By comparison, the collage-like music on Extensions is much more abstract in character, and anything so familiar as an acoustic guitar doesn't figure into the presentation. However, the treatments he and Armstrong apply aren't gratuitous but appropriate, given McLuhan's prophetic views on technology and media and their impact on our “global village.” - textura - November 2014
8/10. In an attempt to dissuade us from ever posting on Twitter again, conceptual electronica bandits Mark Templeton and Kyle Armstrong combine forces on Extensions, an audio representation of Canadian media commentator Marshall McLuhan’s predicted ‘digital collective consciousness’. If such a thing as cerebral noise exists, this record has kicked the scene off to a great start in 2015.
Speaking of years, try to imagine music in 2014. Bring all of those cute little albums and singles together into one mental picture, and what do you get? Probably a mess. A fragmented, homogenous mess, not unlike this paragraph. There’ll be snatches of a song here, a riff there, but more often than not it’ll be a distinct patchwork containing tiny bits of them all. This is more or less what these two dudes have tried to capture on Extensions in order to pay tribute to their prophet.
It’s essentially an ambient album featuring interplay between low undulating drone loops and irregular stutters of wildly sourced samples from degraded old media. There’s quite a mechanical tone to it all, chock full of crunchy clunks, hisses, and unchanging tones arranged into a seemingly random, but ever-changing collage. Office paté enthusiast Kim was saying that it sounds very sci-fi, Ian was saying that it sounds like Crunchy Nut. What a silly boy.
Occasionally a rhythmic pattern of blips emerges, but the majority of the time it’s a murky experimental melee like Frank Bretschneider + Steve Roden’s recent release. The creepy apocalypse haze tones of some of the more abstract Boards of Canada tracks is present too, to get you worried about all of the words of humanity coalescing into one big meaningless digital cesspool. Including these. - Norman Records - January 2015
8/10. For the first release on his newly minted Graphical label, Mark Templeton presents an LP + DVD collaboration with video artist Kyle Armstrong that draws inspiration from media theorist Marshall McLuhan's ideas of the "collective digital consciousness." Templeton, whose excellent early releases tended towards complex and precise cut and paste edits of instrumental pieces, leapt into a less controlled and melodic realm with Jealous Heart in 2013. On Extensions, he continues along this organic "played rather than made" path, finding intersections of music, noise and information that perfectly suggest the background electronic saturation of our day to day.
Even (and maybe especially) without Armstrong's accompanying visual pieces (not included in the review package) Templeton's flowing collages open the floodgates to personal interpretations both emotional and cerebral. And for all the big-brained baggage packed beneath the work, Extensions is an enjoyable, meditative, listening experience you don't need a master's degree to appreciate. (Graphical) - Eric Hill for Exclaim! - January 2015
After a bit of a delay, Mark Templeton inaugurates his new label Graphical Recordings with the release of Extensions, an audio-visual collaboration with filmmaker Kyle Armstrong. A 12” LP and DVD, this fine debut draws inspirations from fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan, whoseUnderstanding Media is now half a century old. The duo, both based in Edmonton, Alberta, use McLuhan’s aphoristic insights as catalysts for the movements that make up Extensions. Both artists explore the materiality of their respective media, treating their instruments and raw material as the eponymous extensions, favoring media specificity over conveying signified meanings. The two may also be working together as extensions of one another, the final product taking a form that is the result of the interplay of audio and visual reciprocally influencing one another. Rather than a tedious intellectual exercise in conveying McLuhan’s ideas, which would be somewhat ironic for the man who famously argued that the “medium is the message,” the pair instead use his reflections as a launching pad for a particular kind of engagement.
Templeton’s earlier work was often characterized by a very deliberate clicks-and-cuts style, approaching glitch but maintaining a dominant impressionistic electro-acoustic component. His instrumentals took form compositionally through editing, one suspects, seemingly finely wrought and carefully considered. 2013’s Jealous Heart opened things up a bit, feeling looser and perhaps more improvised. He has worked previously with Ezekiel Honig’s Anticipate Recordings, a label which also features Nicola Ratti, fittingly as Templeton’s aesthetic falls somewhere in between Honig and Ratti. Not to overstate my case, but I make note of Templeton’s association with Ratti –working with Anticipate, performing at the same festivals, on short tours, promoting each other’s records –since considering their parallel evolutions might be illuminating.
Kyle Armstrong is a filmmaker who specialized in short, non-narrative cinema, often working with super8, 16mm, and manipulated video. His techniques of altering film by hand include use of “bleaches, dyes, scratches, and paint” to transform his footage and reappropriate existing images, as exemplified by his critically acclaimed short film Magnetic Reconnection. Armstrong and Templeton have collaborated previously over the past several years, including on the short “Carved and Cared For.” Their collaboration on Extensions is certainly the most sophisticated and interesting of their projects together thus far, clearly the result of a successful and intuitive partnership.
As critics and as audiences we can (and should) engage in an analysis of media that goes beyond content, something Extensions invites us to consider. Again, for a record memorializing the man who stressed the importance of media specificity, I wonder about my ability to properly consider this vinyl record and DVD through an mp3 and streaming video press kit. That said, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to the audio from Extensions divorced from the images, on headphones and on my home soundsystem. Perhaps it is better for all of us to memorialize McLuhan by attending to the audio-visual document itself, and not over analyze the reference to Canada’s most famous media theorist.
Structurally, Extensions feels most complete as an audio-visual project. This is clearly the intention, as the two are clearly working together and neither feels quite sufficient divorced from the other. Still, this presents an opportunity to play out McLuhan’s hot/cold distinction, because inevitably we will listen to the vinyl or digital files divorced from the intended context.
Sonically, we’re not miles away from Handcut, the critically praised Bellows LP that Nicola Ratti and Giuseppe Ielasi produced through live improvisation with old LPs and contact microphones. I even hear echoes of Ielasi’s Stunt series, in the rhythmic and textured loops that comprise this record. That said, Extensions is unique, more thoroughly composed and structured while incorporating the freedom of improvisation and happy accidents of its media being exploited for aesthetic gain.
At times Extensions is operating in very abstract territory, full of noise, static, and blurred sounds and images. Other places tend to be more minimal and electronic, with reverb and saturation extending each moment into one another. There is recognizable use of samples, in the audio as well as the visual. A brief descending melody of looped brass pitched down, the extraneous sound of vinyl or tape, the grain of film, images of the sky, a field, numbers counting down. Excerpts of McLuhan lecturing occasionally emerge, fragmented and decaying as they stutter and disappear before expressing a full thought. The images run the gamut from abstract and oversaturated to realistic. Moving bars of light become abstract color clouds, flashing lights, a pastoral view through a window frame and back again. In between movements, epigraphs from McLuhan frame the various ‘scenes,’ adding an additional sense of narrative.
Extensions is fairly loosely related to some of McLuhan’s ideas, especially the notion of technological devices as processes which extend our abilities, rather than just conceives them as mere instruments or tools. The binary of the audio and visual also calls to mind contrasting “Hot” and “Cold” media. To oversimplify what is a rather open-ended and dynamic process, McLuhan’s conceived of some media as being “hot” when they emphasize one sense in high definition, requiring little audience participation. On the other hand, a medium is considered “cold” when it necessitates more audience engagement, utilizing multiple senses and often containing less data. Hot media engenders fragmentation while cold media produce holistic patterns. One might fruitfully contemplate this concept when considering the difference between experiencing the DVD compared with solely listening to the LP alone. In the end, McLuhan has identified a shift in thinking about media in terms of their effects and not their intended meaning, and Extensions is no doubt successful in affecting its audience. - Joseph Sannicandro for A Closer Listen - January 2015
‘Extensions’ is the inaugural release on Templeton’s new Graphical label, and man, right out of the gate they are killing it. This 12” + DVD combo release is a tribute to Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian author and media theorist. As with last year’s ‘Jealous Heart’ LP, Templeton has this fantastic way of utilizing tape manipulation and found sound that makes the memories of a bygone time drip right out of your speakers. Kyle Armstrong’s visual component of the release is comprised of warped film and blurred imagination that is the perfect compliment to both the audio and to the underlying themes of technology and over-extension present in the release.
Check it out at Graphical. The LP is available to pre-order in an edition of 300 (and currently at a discount) and first 100 copies come with a limited edition postcard, with 20 different postcards in all. - OMG Vinyl - December 2014
Last December, Steve gave us a heads-up about Extensions, the collaborative LP+DVD release from Graphical Recordings, which is a new work of sound and vision from sound-ist Mark Templeton and visual-ist Kyle Armstrong, all based on the writings of famed media theorist Marshall McLuhan. Today, we’re privileged with the opportunity to share a full selection from the piece. “Circumnavigation” provides an expertly rendered patchwork of dark imagery — a series of overlain and effected stock-footage clips that seems to represent a hazy view of the natural world as suffocated by technology. Templeton’s eerie backdrop of audio is the perfect companion here, brooding and building textural digital noise that surrounds an undercurrent of soft synthetic plains to provide both a kind of forlorn, ambient stasis as well as an uncanny sense of forward motion and narrative. - Crawford Philleo for Secret Decoder - January 2015
I’ve opened a door I shouldn’t have. The world is now rushing at me quicker than my brain can process it, with magma flow flickering out of hue as I stall under the weight of information in excess. Sensory data hits me like the pressurised output of a hose. Horizons lines fracture and fold into each other, rocket thrusters pour light into my eyes, submarine sonar dialogues occur over seas of vinyl scratch and misplaced breath. The planet is a shattered mosaic. This collaboration between Mark Templeton (audio) and Kyle Armstrong (video) is based on the work of media scholar Marshall McLuhan, whose quotes appear throughout the film as black, interjectory stills coupled by silence and urgently red or blue text:
“In an age of multiple and massive innovations, obsolescence becomes the major obsession.”
This particular quote flashes up after a string orchestra is heard flickering, like a dying light bulb, to the inevitable end of its lifespan. Throughout much of the piece I feel as though I’ve been catapulted into the sky, where the passing of time and my sense of location are ruptured by an onslaught of motion and sudden weightlessness; lens flare dances with faint human silhouettes and a background of dimly burning moonlight, soft and disturbing, while estranged locked grooves ride the rims of toppling metal pans.
“Myth is truth in hyperspeed.”
Perhaps this is what the world feels like when the connection between technology and human perception thickens before the body is ready for it. Extensions is a melancholic, technicolor force-feeding – a catalogue of things dying or falling into horrible lifeless limbo, of natural life repainted beyond recognition, of sonic artefact falling down a funnel of tampered chronology and fictitious acoustic space. And yet it’s not only the sounds and images that scare me. The piece is riddled with the blemishes of analogue mediums, be it vinyl pops or the alien bacterium that scatter upon degrading film reel. I fear that these blemishes still exist in the digital age, albeit insidiously closer to our skin. - ATTN: MAGAZINE - January 2015
Ambient musician Mark Templeton and filmmaker Kyle Armstrong are the latest to pay tribute to McLuhan, who died in 1980. Their collaboration, Extensions, is a haunting abstract of original and sampled sound and video. Shuddering rhythms, chopped vocals and snippets of spoken-word dialogue intermingle with shots of wires, blurry figures, clouds, rocket ships and some of McLuhan’s quotes, including: “To say that ‘the camera cannot lie’ is merely to underline the multiple deceits that are now practised in its name.”
Some of Armstrong’s multiple deceits include shots of what could be seen as either a field or a lake, wafts of smoke or underwater shadows, an upside mountain or the underside of a whale. Such duplicity also extends to the ambient soundtrack, partly composed of manipulated audio from stock film footage. “Kyle would send me sound files from films and I’d use them as sources,” says Templeton. “He wouldn’t tell me where the footage came from, but I didn’t really want to necessarily know in case it subconsciously affected how I approached it.”
The pair first performed their work at one of the Art Gallery of Alberta’s Refinery parties in 2014. As of Jan. 28, Extensions will be available on DVD (and LP), the first release on Templeton’s new label, Graphical Recordings, or graphicalrecordings.com. - Sandra Sperounos, Edmonton Journal - January 2015
Mark Templeton’s electroacoustic tryptophan encodes into unexplored alleys of your mind. Jealous Heart is characteristically unclassifiable, flicking click ‘n’ cut flotsam into toxic spewed waveforms as screwed ‘n’ chopped sirens moan from the depths. Another masterclass from the Albertan school. Listen on headphones for maximum warp! - Jesse Locke for Weird Canada - May 2013
The last we heard from Mark Templeton was a string of albums on Anticipate Records where the Canadian musician began filtering vocals and percussion into his vibrant mix of laptop-based drones. Despite that evolution, "Jealous Heart" is decidedly different in both approach and result. The album, issued by Under The Spire, peels back much of the digital tools previously prevalent in Templeton's work to reveal a very physical sound, as if "Jealous Heart"'s murky ambience and smoky samples have been waterlogged and worn organically. By relying on found sounds and vinyl-sourced loops the album contains allusions to jazz and dub that can be both vague ("Buffalo Coulee") and overt ("Once We're Down"). As a whole, however, "Jealous Heart" is a difficult album to categorize and after several listens I still can't quite make sense of it. A deep compliment indeed. - Ryan Potts for Experimedia - April 2013
I’m searching for an exit, but all too often there is nowhere to go. There is nowhere to turn, no hope of getting away from its shiftless grasp without the use of a figurative flashlight. It comes in forms thick and weary, wrapping itself tight around even the most minute of micro-genres, yet it remains discernible only in the instinctive mind that makes it so. But what is “dark” music anyway? Surely describing an album as “dark” is as useful as calling it plain “good” or “bad” or something synonymous, right? Well, perhaps, but so much can also be said for illustrating the tone or shade of a specific piece, and in this respect, defining the way a sound feels remains an important factor. However, “dark” seems to be used a great deal in order to emphasize certain textures while acting as a trigger word, which needs to be addressed in most part due to its common usage.
I wonder if the term retains any significant value and whether or not it proves practical, even if somewhat lazy. Take Raime’s Quarter Turns, whose slow and beckoning mawk had a hand-basket of reviewers, myself included, recalling images of bleak environments, void of any sunlight. “Dark” in this context seems appropriate, if not a little flabby. In other instances, that needn’t be so; like most aural description, “darkness” is of course illusory, an adjective attributed to the imagery it inspires. Such terms are considered slack, weightless, and on a par with haphazardly pigeonholing musicians who embrace abhorrent themes (see: black metal, horrorcore etc.). This is doubly striking when lyrics aren’t available in attributing cohesive subtextual reference points, but does that render purely expressive vocab useless?
In the case of Mark Templeton’s latest, an abject descriptor such as the one lassoed above would fall flat on its face, despite how tempted one might be to apply it with an accordance de rigueur. Not only because Jealous Heart, the second chapter in this Canadian artist’s “heart”-titled trilogy, is so elaborate and intricately composed — pulling on a number of electro-acoustic layers as it does so delightfully — but also because the atmosphere refuses to conform to terms attributing a specific shade. Bearing that in mind, it also ticks a few boxes, which may induce slapdash response:
- The album is made up of downtempo, instrumental pieces.
- Each track bears a nostalgia for tape cassettes.
- There lies a distinct fondness for deep, low-end frequencies.
However, Templeton also makes wonderful use of smooth trumpet samples, which curdle across acoustic guitar strings in a fashion that feels warm and alive. Those nostalgic forms come embroiled in a context of material appreciation for the handling and physical texture of a once near obsolete format as opposed to a stubborn inwardness, remorse or longing for it.
Indeed, Jealous Heart harbors just as much nostalgia for tape as The Caretaker’s Empty Bliss did for old ballroom 78s, and it explores that sentimentality in a similar vain: by confronting the styles and the format most candidly. On the record at hand, this is accomplished extraordinarily well through the hushed haze of “Matinee.” The comparison also holds water in that, like James Kirby, Templeton is exploring states of change that people have no control over, such as aging. But each set of results is different, due mostly to the latter pursuing a contemplative angle as opposed to an investigative one.
The music therefore reveals itself as insular because of the echoic and fetishist grip residing in the sluggish, looped vocals; the clicking of buttons; and the speeding of reels on “Once We Were Down,” which fastens analogue whirring with ambient jazz trumpets. A physical relationship with the cassettes is demonstrated in their being used as a tool for summoning shaded textures in, say, an underground space. On “Kingdom Key,” it appears as though the artist is scrunching the material in his hands as the spools are peeled across a manipulated vocal loop. There is nothing bleak or sinister about the concept; it exposes a humbling degree of exploration, propelled by the combination of electro-acoustic hashing and hollow vocal segments.
The centerpiece on this magical affair lies on “Flat3,” which is like the left ventricle of the Jealous Heart, pumping oxygen into surrounding tracks through a combination of fragile keystrokes and smoldering feedback. Such effects are set against a distinct fascination for the use of echo, which is wonderfully reflected through mixing enough repetition to breed familiarity but with enough spark not to ignite contempt. The interlacing of beautiful strings and rushed tape samples on “Buffalo Coulee” constitutes my favorite example of this, where piano keys and percussion are pulled back repeatedly alongside distorted vocals. A balanced amount of distinction can be found throughout each rep to warrant an aching degree of wonder, which is triumphant when acknowledging the track’s brevity. Loops are subtly altered during playback to create a fresh environment for the shattered remnants of guitar chords, trumpets, and spool commands, and despite the driving of pistons, which is encountered with industrial force on “Carved and Cared For,” the mood is far too tangled in the artist’s brimming sense of experimentation to justify the use of tainted terminology. And even if “Straits” does conjure images of a distant woodland, where the moon is out and the sun is sinking, the scenery is skewed, hazy perhaps, but certainly not dark. - Birkut for Tiny Mix Tapes - April 2013
Every now and again, an album pops up which feels out of place. Or like it came from no place at all. It feels complete in itself, without the usual baggage of obvious musical reference points or traditional touchstones. Jealous Heart is such an album, with Mark Templeton seeming to come at these sounds with nothing but his ears to guide him. Tape hisses and whirrs throughout, lending a warmth and presence to every snippet of manipulated sound. Through the haze, he winds together rich samples, underwater horns, odd rhythms and disconnected voices to create something dark and beautiful and exquisitely layered.
At times Jealous Heart feels like ambient music, working its way quietly through textures and shapes, but it has a tenacious ability to surprise, to resist sedation. It is impressionistic in its blurred, warm tones, conjuring an image or feeling more “real” than should be possible with an abstract collection of mostly unrecognisable samples. The only constant threads are the tape sounds and a particularly distant brass. It's not quite nostalgic but it is romantic, with a sad but hopeful tint that only soft, mournful horns can really achieve.
It's not all doleful ambient though, and tracks like 'Kingdom Key' and 'Jealous Horse' go somewhere else entirely, with a more musique concréte feel of distinct, looped and manipulated sounds rather than a painterly wash of texture. The longest track is 'Flat 3', another looping piece that writhes and wriggles with competing rhythms and hints of melody. It slowly unfurls to fill the spectrum, managing to expertly walk that thin line between careful composition and a feeling of adventure, of looseness and unexpected turns.
This is the album's strongest attribute, the knowledge that what you're listening to has been carefully constructed and laid out yet never feeling like it is anything but natural. Combined with the genuinely timeless sounds that make up each song, Jealous Heart is a very difficult album to pin down or accurately describe. The blend of lo-fi sources with hi-fi structuring and layering places Templeton at the end of a long line of sampling composers, beginning perhaps with Pierre Schaeffer and best exemplified today by the liner-note contributing Ezekiel Honig. Templeton's music is close to Honig's in its density and refinement, but its personality is all his own. - Ian Maleney for Thumped - April 2013
Mark Templeton...Mark Templeton...Mark...Templeton. Nope. I’ve not heard of him. He produces a kind of chopped up dusty melancholia that sits somewhere between The Caretaker and J Dilla. It’s terrifically original, full of strange old loops that go hither, thither and elsewhere but there is a real cut hip hop feel to it with slowed down horns that according to the press release sound like a jazz club under the sea. I know what they are getting at.
There are spooky voices, strange interludes. I’ve been playing it both at 33rpm and 45rpm, not because I was experimenting but because I made a mistake and the album sounds interesting at both speeds. Templeton has managed to find the place where hauntology meets splice-hop, it’s not an easy listen but golly is it distinctive. - Norman Records - April 2013
On Jealous Heart (a sort-of sequel to his Scotch Heart cassette), Edmonton, AB musician Mark Templeton melds an analog, William Basinski-like stutter with the dark electronic atmospherics of the roster of the Blackest Ever Black label or even Andy Stott, at least tonally. Meticulous production and skilled musicianship are brought together by tight-but-loose compositions whose apparent subtlety belies a deeper complexity that is at once soothing and unnerving. Several moments of sweetness, such as the buried vocals on "Sinking Heart" and the playfulness of "Kingdom Key," are there to be discovered, but the album is no easy listen. Full of achingly melancholic, processed horns, this record comes across like a coda for a broken relationship, just as Basinski's Disintegration Loops was one such offering for NYC, post-911, and Jealous Heart is no less powerful for it. In physical form, the album is limited to 300-coloured vinyl LPs, so you better snap one up while you can. - Vincent Pollard for Exclaim! - March 2013
Electro-acoustic musician Mark Templeton kicks things off in an obscure, but engaging fashion. Ambient broken pads and guitar float off kilter and parallel to one another and eventually gel as the notes stumble together; it’s an effective blurring aural experience that sets the backdrop not too dissimilar to looking through a window at traffic passing, on a rainy day.
Things carry on in the same fashion come track two ‘Once Were Down’, this time with the interruption of a trumpet. For the uninitiated this may sound like a lot of thespian meanderings that should be avoided, but with the subtle electronics this once again evokes a thought processes coupled with sound sculptured emotions.
In a lot of respects, ‘Jealous Heart’ reminds me of Fennesz, at least in the ambient sense. Carefully layered with no individual element swamping another this is pleasant on the ear and would make the perfect backdrop to driving lonely highways in the early hours of the morning, just before the sun comes up.
The press release proclaims Templeton’s latest release as not too dissimilar to a “Jazz club under the sea” and they’re not that far off the mark; however, there is more to this album than that moniker invokes alone. For those that loved ‘Stairway to the Stars’ by The Caretaker, you will be in your element listening to this. - blackaudio - March 2013
Edmonton-based sound artist Mark Templeton has been quietly eking out his unique musical place for quite some time, but he’s always been a difficult figure to situate. At a glance, Templeton’s music is ambient, warmly textured and bereft of obvious melodic gestures. With Jealous Heart, however, the sound is atmospheric and distant, yet emotionally immediate and cluttered — too busy to be “ambient” and too fragmented to be anything else.
Jealous Heart is Templeton’s most malleable effort yet, a punctured tapestry of sounds arranged in oddly melodic patterns. Throughout, scraps of sound forms — field recordings, found artifacts, treated horn phrases — are manipulated to the barest edges of tape, spliced and submerged into a cohesive whole. One might even be able to trace the contours of each sound were it not for the murk of intuitive mood that envelops the best moments on the album — like how “Buffalo Coulee” wraps its loops into a gracefully staggered melodic ascension, or how “Sinking Heart” clips into disembodied murmurs, a smeared emotional resonance caught within the ether.
Jealous Heart is a deeply nuanced, subtly cluttered collection of faded sounds; at points it reminds me of recent efforts from Leyland Kirby (The Caretaker), but with a heavier emphasis on the physical manipulation of sounds themselves, and not merely atmosphere, which gives Templeton’s newest effort its own distinct presence and emotional resonance. A patient, worthwhile listen. - Devin Friesen for FFWD - March 2013
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 electro-acoustic 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. - textura - March 2013
Mark Templeton is a Canadian sound artist whose work merges the unspoken poetics of found sound with the aesthetics of electro-acoustic and experimental composition. His rather unique approach to composition was what I instantly connected to in 2009 when I first listened to his album Inland released by Anticipate. I voted this album as one of my favourites of the year and it made sense to me from that point onwards to keep track of his past and future releases. Having said that, Templeton’s work is not limited to his album releases. He has worked extensively on commissions for contemporary dance, film, audiovisual and multimedia projects. In 2010, Mark was generous enough to compose a new track for an exhibition I curated while in New York (see Safely Into March). Jealous Heart marks his first release for Under The Spire Recordings, which will be released in an edition of 300 vinyl LPs in March of 2013.
Jealous Heart find us listening to Templeton’s perhaps more introspective work to date. A continuation of the thread left unraveled since Scotch Heart, this second installment in the “Heart” themed trilogy, is the culmination of a series of experimentations with obsolete devices and materials. Age and individual time stand still and under scrutiny throughout the 10 compositions of Jealous Heart. The opening track “Buffalo Coulee” sets the pace for the album and introduces us to a universe of dusty and exhausted jazz horn and piano samples that re-appear in the album and loosely form an underpinning theme. “Once Were Down” and “Sinking Heart” are perfect examples of that particular sound and justify what is described in the press release as “a sense of stillness, a balancing act that is incredibly difficult to get right”.
“The album tells a story through the emotions and perspectives that manifest to each listener uniquely. [...] I would like to think that it causes the listener to reflect and to have some connection to the past. A connection to someone else’s story, heard through different ears.”
Jealous Heart can be read in many different ways and it demands multiple listening to become absorbed and complete in the listener’s head and heart. In tracks like “Carved and Cared For” or “Flat3”, a constellation of dark, nostalgic and amorphous sonic clusters calls for the listener to join the dots while retaining its solid core. The interplay between abstract repetition and disruption establishes a subtle yet effective tension and release of emotional and textural dynamics; a feature that can be also found in Templeton’s previous releases and one that drew me towards Inland.
“Jealous Horse” and the closing track “Straits” offer an exchange of slow moving patterns and sudden brief pauses as if an old video tape of a family road trip is played back in slow-motion and in reverse. By the end of the album the listener is left standing sun-soaked in the middle of this unknown yet familiar old and dusty road, not unlike Harry Dean Stanton in the opening scene of “Paris, Texas”. And that’s exactly when the journey of discovering Jealous Heart really begins. - Maria Papadomanolaki for Headphone Commute - February 2013
A true winner right here. Templeton’s newest solo venture is the stuff dreams are made of, taking the murky majestic melancholy of LEYLAND KIRBY and tying it in dynamic loops, reminding me a bit of NICHOLAS SZCZEPANIK’S WE MAKE LIFE SAD but with loops that grow, a half-forgotten memory of a seaside jazz lounge playing swamp horns, drugged drums, and meandering pianos, all smeared into an intimate haze of organic harmonies, ancient gritty tape loops warped by your brain under the load of more recent experiences, found object clattering in the back room, an impossibly perfect balance of everything, retaining a beautiful clarity in the fog of drone, the analog warmth amidst the glitchy processing, the dark dank depression intertwined with bright bittersweet hope, nothing sounding more right at this moment. Only 300 copies pressed, available in March, preorder now and save yourself the heartache of missing out on this masterpiece. - Anti-Gravity Bunny - February 2013
Looking at the cover image for Jealous Heart – Mark Templeton’s first new album since his 2011 CD for Mort aux Vaches – you’d be forgiven for expecting something along the lines of Barn Owl’s expansive desert drones, Fabio Orsi’s crackling Alan Lomax homages or even William Fowler Collins’s pitch black country horror. The old sepia picture of a woman and her child on horseback is starkly framed, as though she is being spied on through a tattered flap of sacking by an amorous admirer, or about to be violently accosted by one of Cormac McCarthy’s bumpkin ne’er-do-wells. Bearing in mind Templeton’s serpentine trajectory since 2005′s Standing on a Hummingbird it would surprise few if he had actually ‘gone country’, but the music on Jealous Heart is far removed from his early excursions into pastoral ambience which did actually involve a little bit of banjo. It is hard to come up with a more fitting description of the music on Jealous Heart than Ezekiel Honig’s in the album’s press release. Honig knows this music as well as anyone having released the past four Templeton albums on his Anticipate label, and he uses the image of a ‘jazz club under the sea’ to nail the overriding atmosphere of this one.
The relatively up front nature of the manipulated vocal loops on Buffalo Coulee and Kingdom Key will strike listeners familiar with Templeton’s work first and foremost. Like Leyland Kirby before him, Templeton uses old vinyl to provide a haunted quality; the horns are buried deep beneath layers of silt and any pulse that may become evident sounds as though it’s emerging from bursting bubbles. Only during Once Were Down and the closing Straits are the horns allowed to emerge from the fog with any real clarity and the latter eventually breaks down to reveal the workings behind the entire album like the back of a grandfather clock being flipped open. Certainly there is far more detail to Jealous Heart than might be immediately apparent. Whereas Kirby’s music provides an everlasting tide of time it proves hopeless to try and swim against, Templeton makes sure there is enough variety in these relatively short pieces to maintain interest and reward any number of repeat listens. All manner of sonic clutter is thrown into the mix, with wooden knocks and metallic clangs ticking away beneath most of the record. Jealous Horse, for example, skits by on a series of wire-end fizzes and backwards vinyl scrapes, Sinking Heart introduces a repetitive piano phrase and – for the one time the album gets properly ‘out there’ – Carved and Cared For features a quite frightening squeal of rewound tape that sounds like a mutant baby being tickled. But nothing here is ever forced – Templeton trusts the listener’s patience enough to allow things to come through slowly and organically, and the outcome is surprisingly warm.
Although Jealous Heart represents another left turn for the restless Templeton, a nascent familiarity is still achieved through the album’s sewing box aesthetic. What Jealous Heart proves is that in the right hands these disparate elements can be combined in such magical ways as to result in something we recognise, and the more I listen, the clearer it all becomes; the subaquatic jazz club is certainly not one that is drowning – it is being conjured triumphantly to the surface with every single spin. - Steve Dewhurst for Fluid Radio - February 2013
If you think you know Mark Templeton, guess again. The artist does not have a signature sound; he changes palettes from album to album. His promising electronic debut, Standing on a Hummingbird, was followed by the more vocal Inland and then by the more ambient Acre Loss, a collaboration with visual artist aA Munson and his crowning achievement to date. But even those familiar with these albums may be caught off guard by Jealous Heart, a plunderphonic album that sounds more like the early works of The Caretaker than anything Templeton has yet recorded. The new album is not as sprawling as his contribution to the Mort Aux Vaches series, although it is of similar tone; it helps to have ten tracks to play with so that the ideas can be varied, and the range of sounds here is remarkable.
Once one gets over the initial shock (slow horns and vinyl manipulation on “Buffalo Coulee”), one begins to gain an appreciation for the timbre. Ezekiel Honig calls it the sound of “a jazz club under the sea”, which makes us rather jealous because that may be the most evocative phrase that anyone writes about the production. Of course this makes one think of the Titanic band, somehow sinking but not drowning, playing still, waiting for some new generation to discover them in an oxygen deficient, aneurysm inducing deep dive. The clanks and knocks that haunt the record echo like the settling of cutlery or the settling of waterlogged wood. Submerged as these sounds may be, they continue to demonstrate motion. The past refuses to stay buried, disturbing the silt from below.
Guitar, electronics and sullen strings continue to dot these vast soundscapes; Jealous Heart is not completely different from Templeton’s previous work, although his works are linked by extremely thin tendrils. The only question that remains is, “Where will he head next?” After four noticeably different albums, might Templeton settle on a single approach? The clear benefit would be instant identifiability; the detriment would be experimental curbing. At this point, we trust that the artist will lead us to a place we’ll want to go, even if we’re not quite sure where it is. - Richard Allen for A Closer Listen - February 2013
Drags of electrostatic enigma fluctuate on the periphery of Scotch Heart. Mark Templeton’s latest offering is a dense mass of ambient exhortation. Throughout the short c20, melodies wither into quad-screwed chorals laced with an endless, undulating current of drones, static, and processed lullabies. The sweat lodge appropriately recommends listening in total immersion. Blissfully gripped! - WEIRD CANADA - April 2011.
If anything, Mark Templeton's music would appear to have grown increasingly experimental, even fractured over the past half-decade or so. After transplanting himself to Montreal for a couple of years, Templeton is back in Edmonton toiling in his alchemical lab, intent on giving form to heavily processed and ghostly lullabies of the kind captured on his cassette release Scotch Heart.
Its four tracks careen down dusty corridors crowded with disembodied voices and dotted with duststorms of crackle and thrum. A wooziness pervades the material and gives its sounds and voices an undulating, waterlogged quality, an effect heard most pronouncedly when a singing voice slows to an indecipherable crawl during “Tailored Buildings”; in tandem with the vocal's croak, the inclusion of equally lugubrious guitar playing turns the funereal lament into a requiem of some diseased kind. “Organ Moods” ripples in slow-motion like time-lapse footage of a sickly sewage system within which decaying guitar shards and other murky materials float, occasionally bobbing to the surface before disappearing below. “Veiled Images” conjures a musty gothic cathedral filled with writhing noises, smeared abstractions, and layers of shuddering guitars, until a boy's choir emerges amidst static pops to bring the cathedral connection into sharper focus.
Scotch Heart clearly has more in common with Philip Jeck's submerged sound world than Fennesz's or that of any other axe-wielder, for that matter. On the basis of the cassette's material, it would seem that Templeton has travelled far and seen much since the guitar-based soundscaping of his full-length debut Standing on a Hummingbird (Anticipate) appeared four years ago. - Textura.org - July 2011
I'm not much for EPs. Maybe you've noticed, all one bajillion of you who have sent me your debut EPs without a response. Forgive me, really. I don't know what stops me from being able to commit myself to downloading and listening to something of that length. It should be easier right? (Don't give up, send me your full lengths.) Yet, I do take exception for some. Enter Mark Templeton's Ballads. While I genuinely loved his collaboration with aA. Munson on Acre Loss, I think I forced myself to enjoy his sophomore album, Inland. It wasn't bad by any means, but not near as good as Standing On A Hummingbird either. It almost kept me from immersing myself in his latest EP. However, Ballads marks a return to his previously achieved, outstanding form. The concept for Ballads is a brief, but rich suite of tracks derived from the one-and-only Lionel Richie. The opening track, "February 23rd," is quick to find the Richie's single, "Hello," bleeding through the guitars and static. It's a plunderphonic dream that you never knew you had and now, in its earshot, can't help but slip away into again and again. The closer, "Drowning in Memories," thickens things up a bit and provides ample evidence of the man's expertise in sound collage. Looks like Mr. Templeton is back on top and Ballads definitely has me interested in what's coming next from the textured Canadian soundsmith. -Forest Gospel - July 2010
I don't know what possessed Mark Templeton to plunder Lionel Richie's songs for the four-song Ballads-a childhood obsession with "Say You, Say Me" and "Dancing On the Ceiling" perhaps, or maybe Templeton was inspired by a similar move The Field made when he used "Hello" as source material for "A Paw in My Face" (on 2007's From Here We Go Sublime). Regardless, Ballads, a limited-edition and self-released EP (100 copies), adds an unexpected twist to Templeton's ongoing story: while his recordings have liberally drawn from extra-musical sources-field recordings, found sounds, and the like-never before (to my knowledge) has his work drawn so directly from the recordings of another artist.
Of the four songs, the opening "February 23rd" features Richie most conspicuously. Amidst shuddering waves of static, one hears his voice, and specifically the "tell you time and time again" section from "Hello," repeating hypnotically in fractured form. Other elements-melodies and chord progressions-from the song surface in bits and pieces, resulting in a dizzying four minutes that's unlike anything else in the Templeton discography. No Richie original is as identifiable during "Broken and Remade" even if, shredded into fragments, his voice can be heard bleating at the center of a cyclone. A different mood altogether is created during "Horizon," a placid setting for acoustic guitars and electronics where he appears as an intermittent whisper. The Richie factor diminishes with each song until "Drowning in Memories," three minutes of bass pulses, vaporous smears, static, and electric guitar, seems to dispense with his presence altogether.
Don't get the wrong idea: Templeton hasn't abandoned the style of music-making documented on his Anticipate recordings. On the EP, clearly etched electric guitar lines are heard on occasion but more often than not he uses his gear to generate billowing masses of textural sound, and the twang of Templeton's guitar can be heard in the flutter that ripples across fields of turbulent shadings. But Ballads nevertheless sounds like an arresting new chapter in his development. - textura.org - July 2010
Mark Templeton is an artist I've enjoyed since first hearing his work on his 2007 release "Standing on a Hummingbird". His sound is beguiling - glitchscape pop simultaneously jarring and catchy...
There has always been something human amongst the machinery on Templeton's releases and here, on this tour CD, this humanity is evident in a downplayed sense of humour: Templeton uses Lionel Richie as source material for the four tracks on "Ballads". Yes, you read that right. Lionel Richie.
The source material is only clearly evident on the first tune "February 23rd" as a mid-track jittering breakdown reveals an unmistakable snatch of "Hello" before Richie's voice and the tell tale chord progressions get subsumed again in digital hiss and play out in the echoing distance. Throughout the rest of the E.P. the source material is treated to Templeton's obliterative ambient dissections - stretched, brought sharply into focus and washed out into vistas of decay leaving only the merest hints of the tunes original provenance.
Fans of Templeton's work need not be worried that this disc represents a descent into parody - it doesn't. The artist claims the source material, makes it his own and, in the process, delivers some of his most accessible and immediately enjoyable music so far. Although only a short offering, "Ballads" allows Templeton's sound to breathe and shows a softening of some of the more abrasive textures that can be found on his previous releases. Whether this is the gentle influence of Lionel at work or just Templeton showing his slightly calmer side, the results are eminently and undeniably pleasing.
"Ballads" is an edition of 100 and will be available on Mark Templeton's July European tour and (if any copies are left) on his website www.fieldsawake.com thereafter. - John McCaffrey for Fluid Radio - July 2010
Maybe Mark Templeton should release all of his music on vinyl rather than CD, given how splendidly the 12-inch presentation of Sea Point captures the textural detail that's so much at the heart of his electro-acoustic music-making. The A-side's three tracks are taken from Templeton's Inland, while the flip presents three new pieces, all produced immediately after the album.
Inland's closing track, "Beginnings," opens the release with Templeton's signature acoustic plucks embedded within a floating, rather psychedelic mass of voices and fuzz. "Sleep In Front" Of takes the listener on a jaunty trek through a hazy field of speckled crackle, hand bells, guitars, and vocal musings. In "At Your Feet," waves of distorted electric guitar strokes bleed alongside an anchoring guitar pattern and drum colourations. The three new tracks don't deviate radically in style from the previously issued material, though that's not a complaint. "Increasing By Numbers" drapes the shudder, pluck, and strum of multi-tracked guitar fragments across static-inflected masses that shimmer and sparkle in turn, while, in "Traditional Instruments," a violin's saw is almost buried under a blanket of textures melded from electric guitar and electronic crackle. In all cases, there's an ample amount of restless activity in play at any given moment, despite the fact that the pieces themselves are overall peaceful, even bucolic in spirit, and Templeton, as he's done in the past, presents his material so that a precarious balance between structure and looseness is accommodated in equal measure during the EP's twenty-three minutes. - textura.org - November 2009
Mark Templeton's debut for the then-fledgling Anticipate label was a glorious listening experience. More organic than most 'electronic' albums, it seemed to revel in its sound-sources - the primary source being Templeton's electric guitar. Obviously and probably correctly the album was compared to guitar/laptop pioneer Christian Fennesz, but with his sophomore effort 'Inland' Templeton sounds keen to distance himself from such easy analogies. Where Fennesz has moved towards more ambient and textured territory, since 'Standing on a Hummingbird' Templeton seems to have moved towards real songs. Across 'Inland' we hear fractured vocals, echoes of guitar lines and the distant rattle of drum kits. This is reductionist songwriting, and Templeton disassembles the song as we know it. The album is beautifully restrained to the point of minimalism, but never does it feel boring or stretched out; rather Templeton has the innate ability to reduce his songs to merely their key elements and keep a beating emotional heart at the surface. I could almost use Grouper as a comparison just as easily as Fennesz at this point - while the approach is very different, the two artists seem to share a similar love of real songs, and distorting their songs to the point of being barely heard. On each successive listen you strip something away, release another riff, another vocal line, and over time you can hear the album in its full, uncluttered beauty. In this way 'Inland' is like the gift that keeps on giving - like a box of very decadent chocolates covered in layers of very beautiful foil. Restful, melancholy and near-ambient at times, with this album Templeton has achieved what few electronic music producers manage - the perfect balance between the acoustic and the synthesized. Enjoy, and rest in peace. - Boomkat - May 2009
It was only two years ago when Mark Templeton dropped the flagship release for Ezekiel Honig's Anticipate label and, despite the insanely high grade of releases that have been released on Anticipate since, that release - Standing On A Hummingbird - has remained, for me, the very best. That is until now. Sometimes I wish I could just explode nonsense onto Forest Gospel for miles on end just to display the uselessness of conveying praise and adoration for a specific album with words. Trying to type out my excitement just becomes nonsense anyways. Run on sentences, fragments, spelling and grammar errors, repetitive, seemingly hyperbolic claims - it just feels flat in place of the music. And it is, but oh well. Here is to nonsense: Inland is a radiculously mesmerizing experience of intertwining guitar strings, violin patches and heaps of butchered, glitchy electronics. Templeton has upped his game considerably and Inland marks his second incredible release this year (the first being his gorgeous collaboration with Aaron Munson on Acre Loss). One of the major differences between Inland and Standing On A Hummingbird is Inland's density. For some reason, things just feel thicker, like Templeton has added more to the mix. Also, (and I'll have to go back to verify this) on Inland, Templeton has added some nonverbal vocals to the audio threading. So, in the end, what we have here is distinctly Templeton, just much more focused, more layered and simply heavier in its construct. Heavier might come off as the wrong word. We aren't dealing with any doom metal riffs here. Its just the feathery tones that persist in this release have been tied to some stones. Regardless of its weight, Templeton, as can be seen in all of his work, is the master creating a beautifully cohesive mess. For those who have been waiting for this release as long as I have, Templeton does not disappoint. Essential listening for 2009. - Forest Gospel - May 2009
The allure of Inland begins right away, as a twangy, reverb-ed electric guitar melody is bathed in cascading delays, creating a hypnotic pulse and textured sonic vistas. From there, this latest album by Canadian experimental artist Mark Templeton continues to document an insular yet inviting journey, the composer's hands-on, collage-like methods producing enigmatic mood shifts and plenty of textural surprise. Templeton's approach seems obliquely rooted in both folk song and film soundtrack music: there's often a wide -open -spaces, lonely camp-fire vibe to his layered acoustic and electric guitars, his casually plunked-out banjo melodies. But these humble beginnings lead to complex sonic manipulations: cavernous reverbs; pulsing echoes and regenerations; fuzz and distortion; broken-sounding electronics; severe jump-cut edits. Within these transiting events, other sounds are sometimes heard: static and hiss, accordion chords, gongs and deep-toned drums. All of this seems to occur organically, within tracks that preserve the relatively short duration and, somehow, the familiar narrative-like arc of folk or pop song structure. And while each piece seems to create its own voiceprint, there's also a seamless and mysteriously unified sense to the way the record unfolds as a whole. This is decidedly not trance or drone music: moods and timbres shift and juxtapose quite quickly, sometimes cinematically. Templeton's wordless, often gently falsetto vocals appear suddenly in quite a few places, and the effect of this is powerfully intimate and anchoring. Within all that sonic ebb and flow, all those arching views, we come upon the sound of someone singing to himself; helping us to experience, perhaps, the strangely comforting sense of sharing in another's engagingly hermetic creative world. - By Kevin Macneil Brown for Dusted Magazine - May 2009
First of all, a few things Mark Templeton's Inland isn't: it's not his third solo album for Anticipate but his second; more precisely, it's the follow-up to 2007's Standing on a Hummingbird, as the recent Acre Loss formally counts as an audio-visual collaboration with Aaron Munson. And though the reverb-drenched electric guitar shadings and drum eruptions that inaugurate the album in "At Your Feet" might suggest otherwise, Inland isn't epic and grandiose in design but intimate and down-home; in fact, the material exudes such a relaxed and explorative, even meandering vibe, one pictures Templeton sitting at his kitchen table surrounded by laptop, guitar, accordion, violin, and other instruments as he assembles his collages, occasionally interrupting the work with a lunch break or breath of fresh air. Interestingly, the material manages to be both restless and calm as it unfolds in organic and deceptively casual manner. Calling it "modern experimental campfire music," as the accompanying info suggests, isn't far off the mark. The album presents eleven succinct set-pieces that are perhaps song-like in length but only tangentially so in structure. Tracks such as "Oak," "Under," and "Seam" exemplify the collage-oriented character of Templeton's electro-acoustic style by merging the countrified pluck of a banjo, bluesy guitar shadings, the rustic saw of a violin, and wordless murmur of his voice (typically heard in its upper register) with the speckled spatter and swarm of electronic effects. The acoustic folk elements humanize and offset the distancing impact the digital processing treatments can produce. Often scattered into tiny shards, the guitar in particular is liberally refracted, whether it's transformed into Klimek-like guitar stutter or heard as a writhing snarl as it is during the respective parts of "West of Fabric." Though sonically a blurry, guitar-heavy track such as "Sleep In Front Of" exudes a shoegaze quality, Templeton's music is stylistically worlds away from the genre. Considerably more hermetic by comparison, Inland is the sound of Templeton opening up the window to his workspace and granting listeners a brief glimpse into his idiosyncratic world. - textura.org - June 2009
Gently soaring drones, lifted higher with strong drums. Modified guitar chords interspersed with softened Aphex Twin twitches, and the wordless croons of Sigur Ros, the artist utilizing his voice as its own instrument to guide a song. Electro-acoustic ambient, fuzzy and warped, too warm to be called contemporary but without the faux-detachment of postmodern music. Quite beautiful at times, demanding your attention, each element somehow perfectly cohesive. The last track, "Beginnings," is really the strongest, giving the listener a dreamy, rattling send-off. 9/10 - Foxy Digitalis - October 2009
Through Anticipate's latest release weighs in at an economical thirty-nine minutes, Acre Loss is presented in both CD and DVD formats, enabling one to experience it as a musical collaboration between Mark Templeton and aAron Munson or as an audio-video collection of ten short films co-authored by the duo. Satisfying in either mode, the release weaves outdoor imagery of wintry Albertan landscapes with natural field recording elements and ambient guitar shadings into vivid, richly-detailed tapestries. Kitchen clatter and the babble of crowd conversation intermittently surfaces too, grounding the material in everyday human experience.
No recording in recent memory invites the "sound paintings" label as strongly as does Acre Loss. Scattering materials across the visual and sonic fields like Jackson Pollock throwing paint onto canvas, Templeton and Munson build up layers of effects until multi-hued arrangements of intricate design gradually come into focus and cumulatively bring into being the envisioned scenes. Extending the painterly metaphor further, some of the release's ten tracks function like sketches ("too small," "small one"), whereas others approximate large-scale collages ("looking Northward"). While the music is assembled using accordion, bass, synthesizer, percussion, and various effects, guitar is the central instrument (not surprisingly given Templeton's involvement) though it's hardly used in its conventional "soloing" capacity but more as a textural paintbrush. The range of sounds coaxed from the instrument can be arresting: cases in point, "aTest" sets the flutter and buzz of electrical tones adrift in lulling streams of crackle while "1 is to one as..." is speckled by clusters of guitar splinters. The ten-minute travelogue "looking Northward," which adopts a heavier, industrial-tinged style that leans towards "kosmische musik" even in the absence of a rhythm section, includes shudders and shimmering clusters one could hear as a nod to kindred Anticipate artist Klimek, and in "this will pass" birds chirp amidst metronomic banjo and guitar plucks that slowly morph into a neo-psychedelic trot. In its quieter moments, Templeton's acoustic picking even calls to mind the gentle playing Ry Cooder brought to his celebrated Paris, Texas soundtrack.
On the DVD, the duo augments its intergalactic hoe-downs and starry-eyed drones with kinetoscopic footage of snowy Albertan landscapes, bridge structures and train tracks, and faded home movie footage. The music's natural feel comes strongly to the fore when aligned to images of the sun streaming through barren treetops and illuminating open fields and skies that seem to go on forever. Sounds and visuals often meld into one, with bleeding ripples of feedback paired with flurries of tree branch patterns in "contents are," and brick and grid patterns tied to the stuttering march of streaming guitar lines during "it's ok to fall." That this evocative release received funding from the Edmonton Arts Council seems perfectly apropos, given how powerfully Acre Loss's outdoor sounds and wintry footage will resonate with those who've experienced first-hand the snow-covered plains of western Canada. And even if you haven't, you'll still know what it's like to see the steam rising off frozen lakes and feel the soft crunch of freshly-fallen snow under your feet. - textura.org - January 2009
Acre Loss was conceived as an audiovisual collaboration between musician Mark Templeton and filmmaker Aaron Munson, culminating in 10 musical compositions to be accompanied by 10 short films. The two artists worked together at every stage in the project, which perhaps goes someway towards accounting for the eerily tangible sense of location and scene-setting in these electro-acoustic passages. This music is cinematic in the strictest sense; its environmental sounds and illustrative, foley-like constituent elements are suggestive of scenarios and images, lending an extra dimension to the musical narratives themselves. 'aTest' sounds like Grouper in a hail storm - a beautiful and surreal experience to get the album underway. Elements of field recordings, subtly filtered electronic elements and heavily cloaked vocals are key to the overall sound here, and this strange blend is delivered to mesmerising effect on more robustly constructed pieces like 'This Will Pass'. Short-form audio postcards 'Small One' and 'Too Small' draw influence on the guitar dislocations of Christian Fennesz, proving to be every bit as effective as the longer constructions like the ten-minute closer 'Looking Northward', which itself sounds like a daydreamed tribute to the verdant soundscapes of Mountains, or Tape. Excellent. - Boomkat - January 2009
Non-narrative cinema has always had a complicated relationship with music. When I took a course in my undergraduate degree on Avant-Garde and Experimental Cinema, my professor made a comment-in regards to Stan Brakhage, who had a strict no-soundtrack policy-about music existing primarily to make experimental films easier to sit through. It almost seems like a conciliatory gesture towards people who find these films too "difficult," but there's no denying that the way in which music can exist without images doesn't seem to extend to the reverse scenario.
This idea of music serving a token or secondary role in cinema is precisely what aAron Munson and Mark Templeton seem to be trying to overturn on their audio/video collaboration Acre Loss. The project is a full-blown collaboration: each component seems to have been created in parallel and you get the sense that there was a lot of back-and-forth, as opposed to Templeton simply scoring Munson's videos or Munson structuring his films around Templeton's music. The liner notes even give both members credit on both elements, though given each artist's specific background, there was probably more division of labour than this might suggest. The package comes with an audio-only CD as well as DVD, but the music doesn't quite stand up on its own; at least not in the way that Templeton's exceptional Standing on a Hummingbird (2007) does.
But as a complete package, Acre Loss provides an incredible synthesis of sound and vision. Both Munson and Templeton hail from Edmonton, and the Canadian winter seems to play a pivotal role. But rather than depicting a bleak wasteland, it conveys a sense of people interacting with their snow-covered environment. Templeton's use of household items as source material-the light clanging of dishes and other incidental, domestic sounds-gives a strange sense of comfort, highlighting the slow movements of people going about their mundane daily activities in the midst of winter.
Using a combination of Super 8 and 16 film with modern HD processes, Munson gives a more painterly than naturalistic treatment, at times even rendering his material completely abstract. He often creates movement where there isn't any: opener "aTest" follows a rapid succession of blurred black-and-white images with a repeated movement of the camera vertically along a 180 (degree) axis, catching the bare branches of a tree on the way up, and feet walking along a sidewalk on the bottom. Rather than adopting the usual Minimalist steady cam, Munson allows the camera to shift around erratically, giving the impression of a dizzying subjectivity despite the strict, linear movements. On "It's OK to Fall" he combines a shaky low-angle shot of a telephone pole that makes the wires seem like strings of a marionette with other shots that transform static patterns into rapid shifts of light. Here the two artists show an incredible ability to respond to each other, with Templeton layering guitar drones that also, despite being relatively unchanging, give the impression of measured pulses underneath.
Rather than seeing Munson's use of modern video techniques alongside grainy 8mm footage as being a transformation of natural phenomena, it might be more fitting to consider his images as documenting the organic patterns behind modern technological processes-a concept that I already found in Templeton's music before I'd seen the film. "Saw to the Seed" opens with a double set of windows and a leaning tree visible outside, with one of the windows containing snaky bits of white static and a beautiful shot of someone running away. Not within the world of the window, but like the static, transposed in a haunting way; following in the long-standing cinematic metaphor of window-as-gateway-to-dreams. The music itself oscillates between lyrical guitar and bursts of static that often completely obscure the instrumentation, with a dark slow-exposure shot of shifting clouds layered over with close-ups of aquatic bubbles that occasionally look like snow but shift and disperse in all directions. The sheer visual impact of the images is striking on its own, but by combining images that still retain representative qualities-much like the muffled collection of unintelligible voices that round out the track-they manage to do one of the most admirable things you can do in any art form: to show the viewer/listener how the artists are transforming reality, rather than simply transforming it.
But by far the most staggering thing here, visually and musically, is "Safer," both artists' most minimal track. Amidst what could be the ocean or just the sound of traffic (a sign of Templeton's incredible ability to make typically banal, artificial sources sound like epic natural phenomena and vice-versa) and two clean guitar chords, Munson depicts an empty, snowy field with sunset-colored filters. The rest of the track has a distant figure walking across the horizon while Munson puts scratchy leader rising above him in the sky. At times the leader looks like really heavy rain, but then transforms into expressionist swirls. It's hard to describe the impact since they use so many well-worn cliches of both art-forms-prosaic nature shots, ultra-minimalist long takes, scratched 8mm film, the combination of guitar and field recordings-but the effect is breathtaking; something about the smallness but persistence of humanity in the face of chaos, or however you choose to interpret it. It makes you wonder why, with so many filmmakers and musicians working in a similar vein to both Templeton and Munson, that such synaesthetic explorations aren't more commonplace. - Joel Elliott for Cokemachineglow - February 2009
Mark Templeton enters the landscape, and the landscape enters him, and on and on. His cyclic synthesis erases logic that suggests cutlery is non-musical or that a guitar loop isn't living in a tree outside your bedroom window. Templeton lets indoor and outdoor sounds through a revolving door of wavering electronics and fragile melodies to create a kind of "day in the life" portrait of young man as prairie electronics artist. Collaborating with Templeton on the DVD portion of Acre Loss is fellow Edmontonian and filmmaker aAron Munson. The visuals, which served as backdrops at festivals such as the 2007 edition of Mutek, suit the abstract/referential balance of the audio. Ice and snow are layered over leafless branches and frosted windows. Human figures are shown in glimpses or fragments. Only on pieces like "1 Is To One As..." are things slowed and steadied enough to pause and observe, which in this case is the ritual of coffee making, a process that is echoed in sound moments throughout the album. From sound one it is one of the most evocative and complete marriages of audio and visual elements I've seen in many years. - Exclaim! - February 2009
"I don't own CDs anymore." This shocking statement came to me from a friend, who had just turned 30 and had traded her entire physical music collection for the digital. Gone were the cases, the sleeves, the liner notes. "If I need anything," she told me, "I can just print it out." As this digital era unfolds, additional incentives are often necessary to entice consumers into making physical purchases.Mark Templeton has provided one such incentive by collaborating with filmmaker aA Munson for this mixed media project: a CD of songs accompanied by a DVD of visual interpretations. Templeton's last release, Standing on a Hummingbird, unfolded in filamental degrees and tended toward the abstract. The tracks on that album were elusive, dancing swiftly from recollection at the end of each play. This worked in Templeton's favor, as it invited repeated listens; and yet, the lack of distinctive, standout tracks made it difficult to praise the album as a whole.
The new album contains subtle changes that end up making a huge difference. For the first few seconds, we feel as if we are listening to the same album - the rustle and cutlery drops of "aTest" mimic those of "Amidst Things Uncontrolled" - but soon the differences become apparent. Templeton's repetitive passages are shorter, vanishing before we tire of them; his abrasive notes are pared down to a pleasing dissonance; his sound samples seem more deliberately placed. The result is a more organic-sounding album, with tracks that complement each other and could easily have been mixed for a seamless excursion. Perhaps the only reason this did not occur is that it would have thrown off the director. So what exactly is happening on Acre Loss? The album fits comfortably into the realm of soundscape, although it also contains elements of ambient and drone. To create these tracks, Templeton fed guitar, banjo, accordion, bass and percussion into a computer, lightly tweaked the samples (leaving the core instruments identifiable) and added field recordings. One of my pet peeves does come into play here - I have reviewed enough discs with the sound of children playing to make my own mixtape - but I'm going to let this one slide because it's the first infraction of 2009. The birds are okay by me: they make their first appearance at the beginning of track two and close the album out, as if intimating that the natural world will outlast the processed one. Because the album seems so warm and spring-like, the avian guests fit right in, and the hummingbird, at least, is certainly glad that Templeton is no longer standing on him.
Acre Loss presents sources and samples that alternate between background and foreground. The tracks are difficult to diagram because so many different sounds are produced: a glitch here, a hum there; a snatch of banjo, a burst of static. These coloring books are filled with many markers; on few occasions is a single instrument dominant, and even the shortest tracks (at 1:03 and 0:47) seem stuffed. The best is saved for last: the 10-minute "Looking Northward," a misty melange of micromelodies and field recordings that drifts lazily toward a sedate conclusion, ending with the distant blast of a muted horn. The DVD is definitely worth viewing. aA Munson has done a wonderful job of matching the music to sun-drenched Super 8 and Super 16mm video. The effect is one of hazy, homespun nostalgia. Like Templeton, Munson has an affinity for the repeated motif: a man walking across a snowy field, winter branches viewed from a moving car. But he also captures Templeton's organic sensibility with domestic images, finding fascination in the smoke rising from a cigarette or the convection of milk within a coffee cup. The images are layered, sometimes blurred, often swiftly shuffled - another homage to Templeton's technique. And while much of the video uses a muted palette, these hues are offset by striking bursts of color, which appear suddenly, like joyful angels. I'd love to see more releases like this in the future: sound installations for the home. But even without the DVD, this is an excellent release for Templeton and a laudable step forward. - The Silent Ballet - February 2009
With his full-length debut, 2007's Standing on a Hummingbird, Montreal's Mark Templeton made a considerable splash amongst those in thrall to the hazily melodic drone stylings made famous by Christian Fennesz. Like Fennesz, Templeton mixed guitar with copious amounts of thick electronic textures. Simultaneously noisy and unabashedly pretty; noise shorn of its teeth.
This time around Templeton pairs up with filmmaker Aaron Munson to create ten audio visual pieces that again lean heavy on the bleary-eyed atmospherics in both the music and the film. But the various instruments - guitar, banjo, accordion, etc. - are not fully submerged in the pools of static and field recordings (including a cameo by some lovely chirping birds). Melodies and instrumental motifs don't so much peak out periodically, but rather exist on the same plane as the processed textural elements. With all of its crystalline guitar playing, Acre Loss is eerily akin to early records by the Swedish trio, Tape, but its ethereal, dreamlike vibe even more strongly recalls the vapor-haze murmurings of Grouper sans vocals.
The pleasantly muddied folkiness of many of the pieces is well matched by Munson's grainy super 8 and 16mm film footage - Munson and Templeton apparently collaborated closely throughout the making of the album. For all the processing one imagines went into the making of these tracks, there's an underlying structural simplicity to its swirl and drift. Likewise, though Munson uses contemporary HD processes, often it's the ragged and rough elements of the film stock that catch your attention, adding that extra organic feel to images of trees, the horizon line, whirling clouds, water bubbles and the like. It's all very seductively oneiric and gracefully constructed, but somehow its elegance is almost a point against the music. Its finest moments, such as the gently relentless guitar piece "Safer" or the gorgeous opening piece "aTest" are its most rough-hewn, providing a little more grit to grab onto. - Susanna Bolle for Dusted Magazine - February 2009
It feels kinda cheap to be reviewing solely the musical side of Acre Loss, a truly collaborative effort between Mark Templeton and aA. Munson. The project was conceived as an artistic melding of visual and audio mediums to be produced as a DVD which is supplemented with a CD of the musical tracks. As such, it only make sense that this thing is coming from Anticipate, who has already spearheaded similar projects seeking to further the marriage between the what we see and what we hear. Templeton is the audio artist here, following up his stunning debut for Anticipate, Standing On A Hummingbird, but Munson probably deserve equal credit for the music (as Templeton does for the visuals) so you'll have to simply remember that when I reference Templeton, I reference both. Still, standing alone, the musical score for Acre Loss is transcendently gorgeous and obviously cinematic in its scope and grandeur. Unfortunately, lots of music that is currently being made can be described in those terms. The unfortunate part isn't that there is lots of great music that is utterly beautiful and warm, glacial and imaginative, but that somehow detracts from the fact that Acre Loss is much more than that. Templeton's work is characterized by luxurious electro-acoustic melodies textured with various electronics and found sounds along the way. It is pretty common place in terms of ambient and drone based records, but Templeton must be just that much more charming than his contemporaries because he is somehow able to coax out platinum and diamonds when everyone else is only able to get gold and crystals. And yeah, gold and crystals are great, but, sheesh, it is nothing compared to what Templeton's got here with Acre Loss. You know what? Trying to describe just why Templeton's tones are so good reminds me of trying to describe The Fun Years album from last year. It is just that 'it' factor popping up again. Something involving the purity of love with which Acre Loss has been constructed harkens all of the very best in sound sculpture. Templeton may be fairly new in terms of his output, but he is certainly plugging away with the very top tier of what is coming out right now, and what has come out in the last ten years for that matter. Absolutely essential in every respect and from the looks of what I have seen from Munson's visual work, Acre Loss is sure to be an unparalleled achievement in terms of cross-media collaboration. - Forest Gospel - February 2009
Standing On A Hummingbird
Nice title! And, oooh. It's a very nice recording too. This debut album by electro-acoustic glitchtronica artist Mark Templeton should appeal to fans of Paul Wirkus, Mitchell Akiyama, Guiseppi Ielasi and others working in the experimental-but-beautiful, lowercase field of painterly abstraction, processed instruments, delicate drone, and (last but not least) ambient melodies. Mark Templeton's use of guitar, accordion, vibraphone, cymbals and especially banjo have us most closely comparing this to Geoff Mullen's wonderful thrtysxtrllnmnfstns, as Templeton is similarly submersing the notes played acoustically into a warm, electric bath of creaking staticky stuff, accompanied by murmuring field recordings and chirping digital glitch, like the pleasant but disintegrated soundtrack to some grainy super 8 footage, barely heard beneath the whirr of the film projector itself. Sweet swells of sound throb and drift, fracture and coalesce. It's all very lovely and mysterious, gentle caresses for curious ears. - Aquarius Records - September 2007
Fuelled by the same opulent minimalism that has given Christian Fennesz such a colossal following, this debut album from Mark Templeton is executed with such effortless brilliance that on first listen we were convinced that it was the work of a seasoned master. Brimming with delicate acoustic instruments (banjo, guitar and accordion), "Standing On A Hummingbird" threatens to unfurl into a collection of traditional songs before Templeton works into them like clay, totally remoulding and redeveloping each and every note into a processed entity that's as fragile as it is enticing, allowing delicate subtleties and intricacies to flood out into the fore. This is of course not a new concept, and has most notably been mastered the aforementioned Fennesz, but Templeton injects his compositions with a late night grace that's exceptionally beautiful and almost impossible to ignore within moments of its palatial opening. Another good comparison to Templeton's sound would be NYC operatives Mountains who also manage to successfully imbue their academic excursions with an Eno-esque leaning towards the more pastoral sounds of life - but where Mountains rely on long passages of drifting ambience, Templeton instead harnesses his productions into short, perfect snapshots of beauty. Rarely does a track here go over the five-minute mark, lending proceedings here a bijou fragility that makes it almost impossible not to go back to the begining as soon as the album comes to a close. Much like recent offerings from the Miasmah label (last week's stunning album from Rafael Anton Irissari and the hugely acclaimed debut from Greg Haines in particular), Ezekiel Honig's Anticipate label has here delivered a first release that's as breathtaking and important as any album of its ilk we've heard in recent years, making this a true classic in the making for all lovers of fragile music that pulls at the heartstrings while challenging accepted musical conventions. ESSENTIAL PURCHASE. - Boomkat - February 2007
There are a couple of very brief moments on "Amidst Things Uncontrolled," the opener to Mark Templeton's debut Standing On A Hummingbird, where the distant sound of children yelling and playing breaks through the scratches and pops of Templeton's glitch electronics and heavily processed acoustic instruments. Many electronic artists use field recording samples as segues between tracks, movements, or rhythmic shifts; here the sound is woven right into the very fabric of the song, appearing for a few seconds and then retreating again. The sound of children is always going to produce nostalgia and connotations of innocence; however, its use as rhythmic sleight of hand achieves the same feat as much of Boards of Canada's output: Templeton captures sounds in a way which itself reflects the subject matter of his songs. In other words, the ephemeral nature of the sound delves well beyond the forced naivete of some twee pop groups (or even less visceral ambient artists) to a haunting, melancholy space that hints at vague, distant memories. The clip doesn't simply evoke childhood; using sounds that are not his (as the title suggests) Templeton reminds us of our distance from it.
Templeton supplements these ghostly impressions of real life with a moving current combining the usual stock of glitch artists with acoustic instrumentation. The technique almost seems like a cliche at this point, evoking images of either a laptop artist throwing instruments overtop of the mix to obtain some vague ideal of more "organic" electronic music or a folkie attempting to disguise rote strumming and plucking with clever effects. Standing On A Hummingbird is miles beyond either, the live instruments so firmly entangled in a mesh of painterly abstraction it's often impossible to tell where the sound is coming from. In this respect, he'll probably garner comparisons to Fennesz; however, Fennesz rarely allows the listener glimpses into the source of his sounds. Here, acoustic guitar, violin, and harmonica are present like the objects in a faded photograph: recognizable, but in their newfound context, evoking a completely different set of responses.
Most of the album finds Templeton mining the incidental byproducts of instrumentation: the scratches of fingers across strings, the inconsistency of a bow across a cello. There's a strikingly human element to this strategy; consider how the long harmonica drones on "Roots Growing" recall the slow, deep breathing which creates the sound in the first place. It's hard to ignore that dreaded "organic" tag here, but at least it's well-earned, highlighting how even the most technologically-enhanced music ultimately stems from a process in real time and space; how all art is the interaction between a human being and his or her environment.
Thankfully, Standing On A Hummingbird maintains this element not only in origin but also execution, as the tracks shift according to an internal logic that typically eschews any notion of conventional rhythm. On "From Verse to Verse" the "beats," if they can be called that, skip along in a way which makes the tempo seem to rise and fall until the movement itself becomes the source of the track's pulse. This abstract approach to composition does allow moments of more conventional instrumentation; however, Templeton uses those moments to give tracks like "Pattern for a Pillow" and "Difficult to Light" a chance to develop in ways as unpredictable as his less traditional work. For example: the former track is based around relatively simple guitar picking but Templeton skips, reorders, layers, and otherwise manipulates his source material to reveal hidden counter-melodies and shifting rhythms.
The best part about that track, however, may be the scratching of strings; it sounds like a series of echoes from a hollow chamber and remains prominent even with the other guitar parts present. It's these little details that give Standing On A Hummingbird its strong sense of melancholy, or desolation. If it weren't for these elements, it simply be a well-executed experiment, but as it stands it's one of the more haunting pieces of sound art in recent memory. - Joel Elliott for Cokemachineglow - May 1, 2007
Canadian Mark Templeton's Standing On A Hummingbird is a stunning debut for Ezekiel Honig's new Anticipate label. Although reference points of Fennesz and fellow Canadians Tim Hecker and Mitchell Akiyama on Templeton's sound are evident, Templeton's tight digital editing and acoustic guitar processing is quite unique. Integrating field recordings into his processed sound adding texture and location to these works that oscillate between ambient solace and discomfort. The sound of mechanical gears on brooding and funereal 'Roots Growing' brings a tension and haste to the melodic drones, whilst on 'Pattern For A Pillow' processed feedback growls beneath guitar and cello. In amongst the digital clicks and processing haze on other tracks there is a distinctly human feel to much of the sound with the digital being humanized by other instrumentation and room recordings - the short snatch of accordion that emerges from the tail end of 'Pigeon Hurt' resolves the glitch it ripples through. Highly recommended. - Cyclic Defrost - April 2007
Mark Templeton's music, if made of fewer interlocking pieces, operates on similar principles. Standing on a Hummingbird sounds a lot like its title suggests, as individual notes lose their outlines and distinct tones blur into a scarab's smear. His processing - cutting and looping sounds at odd intervals, so that an elliptical sense of repetition gets jostled by all kinds of random potholes - has left a digitally cobwebbed air about everything (the now-canonical "glitch" sound familiar from Oval). But glitch music has seldom sounded this supple, as piano reverb washes everything in watery ambiance and nervous guitar figures crabwalk across the skipped digits. Again, it's not without precedent: the way the movements phase slowly into each other in "Amidst Things Uncontrolled" owes a fair debt to Gastr Del Sol's reconfigured roots music, and the fizzy "Difficult to Light" isn't all that far off from some of Loren MazzaCane Connors' one-note meditations. But again, it's in the way the acoustic material seems to crumble into vague new shapes that's so arresting; a track like "Roots Growing" unfolds like a sheet of paper being crumpled into a ball and lovingly smoothed out again. - Philip Sherburne for Emusic - June 2007
Those familiar with the granular acoustics of Tim Hecker, Fennesz and Mitchell Akiyama will find safe harbour in this new label's introductory release. Albertan Mark Templeton's palette starts with the guitar, banjo and accordion, all of which quickly discorporate and gain a new digital eminence of colours. The edits are extreme in their detail yet an unhurried calm governs each track. Pieces like "Pigeon Hurt" and the title track make halting progress as each chord and string is made to stutter and backtrack before pushing on. Still, progress is always present in the ghostly pulse of song structures that send signals from various depths. Templeton is equally attentive to the digital overflow of accidents from over-amplification and dangling shards of trimmed noises. He skilfully folds these into the mix along with incidental room sounds to blur the inside computer/outside world distinctions. While comparisons to the above mentioned artists are easy to make, this work is seldom predictable. Templeton manages to create a record that follows feverish dream logic, with colours that brighten and suddenly fade, and details that transfigure without altering their basic character. A welcome addition to the canon. - Exclaim! - March 2007
Standing on a Hummingbird is the debut full-length from Edmonton's Mark Templeton, and it also inaugurates the Anticipate label. Consisting exclusively of electro-acoustic experimentation utilizing stringed instruments (primarily banjo and acoustic guitar) and accordion as source material, the album both showcases the dynamic range of the instruments and demonstrates the widely varied manner by which the acoustic sources can be deconstructed and manipulated to create new sonic shapes and textures. The resulting majesty and melancholic intimacy of these ten tracks betray a background in musical theory, which suffuses Templeton's compositional technique with a decidedly postmodern flavor.
Templeton has a preternatural ability to isolate certain textural nuances of sound, stretching and re-shaping them as atmospheric works that reveal themselves gradually. Delicate guitar figures and arpeggiated chords decay into granular particles and re-assimilate as haunting, delicate fragments, each of which is part of a grander recombinant electronic soundscape. His manner is enhanced by the use of field recordings to augment these digital reconfigurations. The sound of fingers sliding along a guitar string, for instance, with the right amount of delay added, is layered atop a vague snatch of conversation and washes of fragile digital static to create a spare, microtonal track imbued with a staggering amount of emotional resonance.
The virtues of subtlety are manifest on Standing on a Hummingbird, as Templeton allows his pieces to unfold slowly without bombarding the listener with a needless cacophony of glitch and other electronic detritus. Far removed from the aseptic, mundane qualities that have begun to characterize the laptop-folk/electro-acoustic movement, this series of compositions is as inventive as it's abundant with sonorous tonal warmth. - Grooves - April 2007
Resembling that state you're in when you fall asleep with the TV on best describes the debut release from Canadian electronic artist Mark Templeton. You know, that blissful, half out of it feeling one gets as dreamland is a mere fraction of a moment away but that late night infomercial keeps you stirring. Templeton uses his laptop to compose songs out of snippets of people talking, static, chirping birds and a variety of acoustic instruments. Each starts with the pairing of a sampled sound or noise -- violin and rain on "Refrain From" and a single resonating note and the rifling through a kitchen drawer on "Amidst Things Uncontrolled." Like a free jazz composer, Templeton proceeds by introducing a crackling new tone or instrument as previous ones drop away, making for uncluttered arrangements that breathe.
What is most notable about Standing on a Hummingbird is the serene, pastoral beauty Templeton creates using fractured, stuttered samples via modern means. The poignant guitar and static duet on "Tentative Growth" delivers hope in its midsection thanks to the addition of a chorus of birds while sparkles of static dance around unedited guitar on "Difficult To Light." This inaugural release from the new (New York City) label Anticipate Recordings is a good reason to look northward for some prime "electro-acoustic" music. [CC] - Other Music - March 2007
Anticipate is a new label from the mind of Microcosm's Ezekiel Honig. It showcases his love for diverse, electronic-based music and doesn't restrict itself to any one particular style although it complements Microcosm in many respects. The inaugural release comes from Canadian Mark Templeton and is a fascinatingly rich collection of tracks. Using various combinations of sound sourcing and design his work comes across as warm, lush, beautifully produced and is full of engaging tones and textures. Predominantly beatless it could conceivably be called ambient, although with the sheer depth of sound involved that's not quite the right despcription. Organic influences (guitars and other such sounds) mingle effortlessly with the electronic elements to create a soothing and beautiful piece of work that will most certainly appeal to fans of 12k and Type. If this is the shape of things to come I'll be eagerly awaiting the next release! Highly recommended indeed. - Smallfish - January 2007
Edmonton, Alberta-based Mark Templeton garnered justifiable attention with his previous solo venture, the Frail as Breath EP, and the CD-DVD Fields Awake project, but his debut full-length Standing on a Hummingbird (also the inaugural release on Ezekiel Honig's Anticipate imprint) signifies a more public coming-out. The album features heavily-processed electro-acoustic meditations wherein the resonant pluck of acoustic guitars, an occasional banjo, and melancholic accordion tones rise to the surface and then, obscured by the dense haze of field elements (street sounds, water, birds) and granularized stutter, disappear from view. One might be tempted to liken his approach to that of Fennesz (and Oval, to a lesser extent) but Templeton's comparatively more intent on constructing contemplative blocks of sound and, furthermore, his axe of choice is acoustic, not electric. Many of his pieces exploit the tension between the contemplative languor of the acoustic guitar playing and the churning swirl of haze (especially prominent in "Pattern For a Pillow") that, in its smeary, prickly, rippling, and crackling diversity, becomes an instrument unto itself. In "Amidst Things Uncontrolled," Templeton juxtaposes acoustic tones and the bright hum of the accordion with ripples and fire-like crackle, while the dreamy "Across From Golden (Remix)" floats guitar lines over fragments that rapidly flutter like a hummingbird's wings. Standing on a Hummingbird offers a stellar collection of explorative and meditative sound sculpting. - textura.org - January 2007
Anticipate is a new label from the Microcosm's Ezekiel Honig. This first release comes from Canadian guitarist and electronic musician Mark Templeton and is a rich collection of beautiful tracks that come across as a minimal and measured take on Christian Fennesz's treated guitar work, but with more electronic sound work incorporated into the beat-less but engaging ambience. An utter pleasure that should appeal to fans of Type, Lampse or Apestaartje. -Warp Records - March 2007