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Luke Temple Snowbeast [Mill Pond Records]

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Rating: 7.9

Luke Temple succeeds where most modern folk rockers go astray. He concentrates on formulating visual music rife with vivid imagery instead of wearing his heart on his sleeve through acoustic slush. This is the reason why so many folk rockers turn out dreck and ultimately join the ranks of achy douches who happen to wield a Dreadnaught instead of a Strat. The strongest asset of Temple’s music is the dizzying gusto that comes out of the keyboards. The twittering organ harmonies skip, skitter, and bop to make Snowbeast less singer-songwriter fare and more along the lines of late ‘60s acid experimentation.

The organ percussion is so inventive and varied that the album could have consisted of just that and been just as effective. However, coupled with Temple’s fleeting falsetto and angel sustain, the combination is a wry one-two punch. “Time Rolls A Hill” smells fragrantly of the incense and peppermints of the Haight Ashbury scene with its chemical organ fusion with great melodies. The church organ in “Serious” sounds like the Castlevania theme slowed down and warped by heavy hands. The keys are twisted and giddy at the same time. If you close your eyes, you can transport yourself to odd rotoscoped places that have a semblance of reality, but don’t seem quite right.

The high point of Snowbeast is the bubbly psychedelia of “Saturday People.” Carousel dynamics and cotton candy skies fly in the form of the wild organ as Temple mentions “a mescaline freakout in an off-Broadway show.” It’s a very visual track and a showy diamond of nonsensical acid folk. “The Owl Song” is somewhere in between a Mediterranean accordion jaunt and oompa band without the brass. Temple’s falsetto makes it even more surreal. “Darkness” is one half subdued electronica and one part barroom folk. The stoic piano rides the airy fingerpicking and gives the impression of a deserted hall after a hazy evening.

Temple makes some familiar sounds on a few tracks, while still adding a fresh twist on traditional melodies. “Where Is Away” sounds curiously like a morose version of “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In” by The Fifth Dimension and “People Do” is pure western with its moonshine jug bass and talk of trains and lying love. Occasionally, Temple’s wild array of thoughts gets the best of him and leads to indulgence. Because of this, the only real downside of the album is the interlude tracks, “The 39th Jewel” and “Dinner Party.” As the album format continues to decay in a grave it dug for itself back in the late ‘90s, these kinds of tracks are even more irksome.

Luke Temple brings back a point in time when it was cool to wear paisley eyesores and let the fingers do the walking on the acid highway. However, by avoiding the eastern indulgences of the late ‘60s psychedelic movement, he steers clear of pretentiousness through his simple folk roots and lighthearted manner. Snowbeast is an auditory visual experience that is wholesomely accessible and genuinely surreal.

-MATT WENDUS

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By Matthew Wendus

Matt Wendus is a graduate of Wesleyan University with a Bachelors Degree in History. After working in special education for a year, he decided to turn his love of music into something more than head-tripping to the B-52s on Saturday nights. In addition to writing for USounds, he is a staff writer for Revolt Media and produces political and social satire pieces on Associated Content. He currently lives in Virginia and enjoys camping, scotch, heavy amp distortion, and R.E.M.