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* Previously unavailable on a Love Spirals Downwards lp
Emerging in the early 1990's as one of the forerunners of a style of ethereal, blissful pop termed "shoegazer" by the music press, Love Spirals Downwards have continued to evolve, never remaining static in one time or place. Over the decade their music has encompassed elements of ambient electronica, trip hop, breakbeat and drum and bass. The band's best-selling previous album, Flux, aptly showed their music was as at home on the dance floor as it was in the bedroom. This new collection of recent and older songs is true to its title --- Temporal --- providing new and old fans with a glimpse of where they are and where they've been. Following a reverse continuum, Temporal journeys from new dance remixes from Flux, backwards to material from their very first album. At both ends and in between, Temporal is a sumptuous sound of layered guitars and lilting female vocals, rich in mood and melody.
Temporal, a retrospective that includes six previously unreleased tracks, displays the many fine forms resulting from the group's adaptation. Unfolding in reverse chronological order, the album charts the band's growth from a heavily ethereal folk duo with a surplus of goth appeal to its more recent incarnation as an atmospheric drum 'n' bass outfit. The style switch seems coldly contrived when described, but Temporal's layout makes it sound like a no-brainer. In retrospect, the album argues, even the group's earliest, least tangible work was setting the stage for its eventual embrace of electronica. Some of the most ephemeral tracks on Idylls, LSD's first release, practically beg for the breakbeats that dominate Flux, their most recent full-length album.
In a weird way, Temporal answers that request, which makes it a bit of an odd bird among the flock of single-group compilations. While most groups or labels might have chosen a more obvious approach to the retrospective -- assembling the band's "greatest hits" or strongest single material -- LSD and Projekt have chosen to focus on collecting songs that best reflect the group's transition between styles. This isn't a "best of," but rather, something a little more didactic, the equivalent of a boxer fighting a match with one arm tied behind his back. With by-now characteristic grace, LSD shows how easily it married its early, almost formless vignettes to the rigid structure of drum 'n' bass and spawned (yet another) sub-subgenre of jungle.
So, while the album neglects the group's most pop-attuned songs (in chronological order, Idylls' "Stir About the Stars," Ardor's "Writhe in Water" and "Will You Fade," Ever's "Sideways Forest" and "Delta," all of which deserve collection at some point) it allows other songs' submerged strong points to emerge and command new attention. The swelling, layered vocals of Ardor's "Depression Glass" and Perry's angelic sing-song chorus on Idylls's "This Endriss Night" both deserved more consideration than they probably received from listeners the first time around, as did Lum's moody acoustic guitar textures on "Ladonna Dissima" and his exploration of trip-hop beats on Ever's "Madras."
Also receiving some long-needed attention are six previously unreleased tracks, ranging from dance remixes of already dance-floor-friendly songs (Flux's "Alicia" and "Misunderstood," both of which favorably showcase Ryan Lum's choice to blend live guitar and original synth textures with drum 'n' bass beats) to a live staple ("Mediterranea") and a live version of an album track (Ardor's chill-inducing "Subsequently," which showcases Perry's impossibly angelic voice). All of the songs display a smooth-as-ether ambience, a unifying trait that has long masked this very mellow band's adventurous, survivalist qualities. Temporal marks yet another in Love Spirals Downwards' unbroken series of subtle triumphs, a serene reflection on a career bursting with unassuming creative victories.