Tempera are a duo from Portland, Maine creating some excellent, yet hard to describe, free-drone music that feels timeless in its execution. The first thing that struck me about this lp was the packaging- a bright orange and white color scheme and some lovely crystal clear vinyl had me thinking this was going to an electronica-based album, but instead I was treated to an exotic blend of acoustic clatter and shimmer when I let the needle drop. The format of Tempera's music is familiar to me, akin to the free folk of WWVV, Davenport, and other mid 00's troupes- however the output of Tempera feels decidedly more cosmic and spatially oriented than those groups.
The A-side of Tempera's debut lp mixes keyboard drones and pulses, crystalline chimes, and tribal drumming into a formless cloud of sound. While there is movement to the side-long piece, nothing is ever fully resolved, and melody is only hinted at. The work creates a hypnotic environment around itself, sucking the listening into a spiral of sound. The B-side is enhanced by the addition of electric pianist/drummer Robert Stillman who brings a subdued free-jazz flavor to the mix. Again, the piece moves along nicely without ever fully resolving itself -drum and keyboard patterns floating through space, creating a meditative space for the listener to be brought into. The slowed down pace of the album could go wrong very easily, but the group is able to keep just enough movement going to keep things interesting while still maintaining a very subdued atmosphere.
While Tempera might take aesthetic cues from some of their contemporaries, they are still their own unique group. I'm intrigued by their ability to sit on the edge of free-folk and cosmic-synth music in such an intriguing way. This is going to be worth tracking down, and it also comes with a cd version of the album with an additional track. Very well done. 9/10 -- Charles Franklin (14 October, 2009)