Temples: Exotico [Album Review]

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ATO Records [2023]

The Fire Note headphone approved

On their 4th full-length album, the often-labeled psychedelic pop/rock quartet Temples, have chosen a title that comes close to describing both the breadth of their compositions and the lush musical textures they created with producer Sean Ono Lennon. With their 2019 release, Hot Motion, the quartet displayed their dexterity with a broad spectrum of rock and pop’s various vocabularies, mixing musical genres, drawing music influences from whatever inspired them for each song. Aided by Lennon and his studio’s numerous synths, they’ve expanded the lush textures and rich melodicism that drives each track.

Over the course of the new album’s 16 tracks, even though three of them are interludes lasting only a minute and change, the album explores an imagined island utopia, each track focused on a unique attribute or aspect of life in this exotic location. “Cicada” is a bold rocker driven by a percussive drumbeat, with synths and guitars bringing the noise and energy of the curious insects, with strong elements of eastern, Arabic influences that accompany the frenzied dancefloor beats. While “Gamma Rays” mixes verses celebrating the gift of the summer sun, with a chorus that warns of the damage done and the threat to health hidden therein. On a track like “Crystal Hall,” a fun guitar line gets doubled up with layers of textured synths, creating a massive ominous groove, that if anything fades off too quickly into the brief palette cleanser, “Head in the Clouds.”

Made up of mates, James Edward Bagshaw sings lead and plays most of the guitars, with Adam Thomas Smith adding keyboards, guitars and backing vocals, Thomas E.J. Walmsley playing bass and bgvs, with Rens Ottink on drums, Temples has stretched on this latest project, creating a bright, creative collection of songs. Take the fast, melodic synth line of “Inner Space,” with its effervescent energy, the return of a heavier Arabic influence in the melody of “Meet Your Maker” instrumental hook, or the way “Giallo” taps an 80’s synth/pop vibe, Temples has delivered a truly exotic collection that taps the spacy prog-rock energy of a Yes, or ELP, without drifting from the melodic pop-song, melodic focus. There are a handful of obvious pop-song singles, but they’re mingled together with the more esoteric tracks in an artful way, that suits the travelogue nature of the album. The band’s eclectic approach keeps the listener engaged all the way through, with little musical Easter eggs of pleasure revealed along the way, like the Beatlesque harmonies near the end of the album in “Fading Actor,” which aren’t even the focus of the track, merely a gift for those who are paying attention. Exotico paints a picture of a world we can only imagine, but it’s a journey that comes with many sonic delights.

“Cicada” / “Gamma Rays” / “Inner Space”

Sean Ono Lennon / The Flaming Lips / Tame Impala

Hot Motion (2019) / Volcano (2017) / Sun Structures (2014)

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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