Here We Go Magic - "Tunnelvision" (Here We Go Magic)
The self-titled debut by Here We Go Magic marks a new name and a new sound for Brooklyn musician Luke Temple. While Temple’s proficient but unfocused past efforts (2005’s Hold a Match to a Gasoline World and 2007’s Snowbeast) traded mainly in quirky DIY pop, Magic delivers a more coherent, unique sound that largely dispenses with pop song structures in favor of insistently repetitive grooves and densely layered loops. While some pop tendencies remain in view (as on the only full-band cut, closer “Everything’s Big”), Magic is more geared to the rhythmic and the atmospheric, with Brian Eno serving as a clear reference point both on the My Life in the Bush of Ghosts-inspired funkier tracks and the smattering of ambient ones.
Temple sticks more or less to the same basic compositional procedure throughout the album: each track begins with a loop, often built around guitar and percussion, and then proceeds to layer on additional elements ad infinitum. The ultimate effect is a cumulative one, as every track builds to a shimmering climax in which a web of vocals (usually slightly ghostly falsettos drifting in and out of the background), synths and guitars weave around the solid rhythmic foundation. The beautifully murky sound that results owes much of its allure to the ultra lo-fi recording technique: all of the various ingredients seem to blend into one big musical mass, which feels more organic and natural than carefully calculated.
While Magic does indeed find Temple working towards a more personal and distinctive sound, reference points abound: aside from the obvious Eno influence, there are definitely shades of Animal Collective and Panda Bear’s Person Pitch evident in the use of loops and densely multi-tracked vocals. Following the Paw Tracks further, Temple’s use of lo-fi, particularly in his funkier moments, can’t help but evoke Ariel Pink. Nonetheless, Temple thrives on thwarting expectations, often beginning tracks with what seems to be a familiar sound and then refusing to deliver. “Fangela” starts off like the Shins’ “New Slang” 2.0, but grows into something much stranger as layer upon layer of arpeggiated synths and smooth guitar licks grow over the poppy melody like moss. Likewise, the bouncy acoustic intro of “Tunnelvision” never really gives way to the expected song, but rather remains meditatively static as chant-like vocals and droning feedback build up around it.
While most of Here We Go Magic works well as a unit, the more noise-based, non-vocal tracks (“Ghost List,” “Nat’s Alien”) detract from momentum; they’re the least interesting things on the album. The latter half of the album is marred by more ambient tracks that come off as filler, or at best as buffer that would work better on a longer album rather than eating up the second half of this rather short one (just 38 minutes). This kind of material is clearly not Temple’s strong point, (even if it allows him to indulge in another aspect of Eno emulation) as the earlier half of the album should make clear enough, and given the strength of the album’s high points, it comes as something as a disappointment that it can’t quite sustain the same level of interest throughout.