Friday Full-Length: Temple Fang, Live at Krach am Bach

The tab’s been open for the last week in my browser, and that’s as long as Temple Fang‘s Live at Krach Am Bach has been out. I exhausted however many streams were allotted listening through the two-song/52-minute set the Amsterdam psych-of-spirit four-piece played at the June 2023 edition of the Krach Am Bach Festival in Beelen, Germany, and, well, April is tax season here in the US, so I was thinking maybe I could write off the three-euro download if I classify The Obelisk as a failed business venture. Yes, I do consider “failed business venture” a compliment.

There is a cassette pressing of Live at Krach Am Bach as well, 100 copies. It looks pretty sweet, with Maaike Ronhaar‘s on-stage photo of guitarist/vocalist Jevin de Groot as seen from behind mid-testimony printed on a black and white j-card, kind of a bootleg vibe, but pro-shop, as is the recording by Niek Manders for which guitarist Ivy van der Veer handled the mix. To be honest, I just didn’t have the €10 for it this morning or I’d have picked that up, but you take what you can get, and that Temple Fangde Groot, van der Veer, bassist/vocalist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Daan Wopereis — are able to put together an enticing live record at this point should come as little surprise. Live at Krach Am Bach is their sixth one in the last two years.

One might extrapolate from that some idea where the band’s priorities are generally when setting six live releases against their lone studio LP, Fang Temple (review here), which first arrived in 2021 and was pressed the next year through Stickman Records, and its later-2022 EP follow-up, Jerusalem/The Bridge (review here), but if Manders has a penchant for recording off the board while doing front-of-house sound for the band, that has only to this point served them well. To wit, Live at Krach Am Bach is — I believe — the third release from the tour they were doing at the time in 2022. It follows Live at Schlachthuis and Live at Freak Valley (review here), both released last April (the former on tape, the latter a CD/LP on Stickman), and as with those, the narrative around the performance is part of the character that emerges from listening.

I don’t want to just cut and paste the story from their Bandcamp, but the summary is that, as documented elsewhere, they were somewhat winging the tour as they got settled in with Daan Wopereis taking over on drums for Egon Loosveldt, playing different material. It started to rain before they went on. Between songs on the recording, you can hear Duijnhouwer say to the crowd, “Amazing view from here — you guys look good in plastic.” If you had no idea what was going on at the time — if you didn’t know that the audience had either put on ponchos or otherwise tried to cover themselves to keep the water off so they could enjoy the show — you could be forgiven for being confused. Is he on acid? Is he a serial killer? “You look good in plastic?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? It’s ponchos. Chill out.

By then, de Groot has already professed to being on the verge of tears and called the crowd “fucking beautiful, all of you,” before singing out “Take me to the place I have always been” aheadtemple fang live at krach am bach of “Gemini” (21:46) moving into its final phase in the last third, a build that starts with mellow bass, drums and guitar and resolves its extended flow with a striking and memorable chorus, de GrootDuijnhouwer and maybe van der Veer sharing vocals. Both “Gemini” and “Not the Skull” (32:22) featured on 2020’s Live at Merleyn and the recorded-in-2019/released-in-2022 Live at Ocii and Live at Vera, but in different forms with “Silky Servants” included in “Gemini” and “The Radiant” between the other two pieces in the non-festival setting. If your eyebrow went up at Live at Krach Am Bach being the third offering from a single tour, I’ll note that the sets from Live at Schlachthuis and Live at Freak Valley were each comprised of one track only, “Grace,” which to the best of my knowledge, like “Gemini,” has yet to feature on a studio recording.

In addition, both “Gemini” and “Not the Skull” have evolved since those earlier 2019 recordings. That turn back to the chorus of “Gemini” in the back end doesn’t happen with “Gemini/Silky Servants” on Live at Occii, and “Not the Skull” at Krach Am Bach was 11 minutes longer than the studio version that appeared on Fang Temple. What one can glean from this is an ethic of openness to the moment. Standing on stage, the members of Temple Fang are in conversation with each other musically — not just with the “Yeah” at 29:33 into “Not the Skull” to mark the change as the band aligns around Duijnhouwer‘s boogie-shove bassline for a finish likewise raucous and rocking — and the amorphous character of the material that’s been revealed over time comes across as purposefully not definitive. This is what these songs were this day, in the rain, in Germany. The next day it might have been a completely different experience.

The underlying message might be that we limit our reach when we impose rules and definitions on ourselves, of style or substance. If Temple Fang went out and delivered the same set every night in the same way, well, they’d probably still be pretty cool because they play well individually and as a group, but the personality would be different, and by not limiting themselves, they are inspiring on a level that goes beyond the meditative aspects of their exploratory psych or the outright soul with which de Groot tears into a given solo. The songs aren’t completely shapeless by any means — as noted, “Gemini” lands a hook, and “Not the Skull” is all the more encompassing for its plotted movement toward that ending — but on Live at Krach Am Bach, it’s clear they’ve been allowed to breathe and become what they will. Along with the basic audio of the thing, that’s also part of what’s being preserved here. They capture it vividly, and it is an idea worthy of the reminder.

Which I guess is how you get to six live records in a two-year span.

They’re doing a weekender now and have another booked for later in April, two German and one Dutch show for each, and have been confirmed for Sound of Liberation‘s Lazy Bones Festival 2024 this October in Hamburg. I wouldn’t be surprised if more dates surface around that, or if they have another offering or two to make before they next hit the road, reveling as they do in the universe of infinite possibility.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

My sister called a few minutes ago. My mother fell. She’s 77, needs new knees, is figuratively and literally crippled by fear at the prospect of surgery. No serious injury — this time — but it’s a stirring reminder of her advancing age and of course of my own. My father is dead and they didn’t live together, and my sister, who lives in the same house with her own husband and two kids, is primary. I’m of course glad she didn’t get hurt. Takes the day down a peg.

But the whole week was a mess, really. The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I started out Sunday on a four-plus-hours trip to somewhere in New York’s Finger Lakes — which it turns out are gorgeous; go figure — to see Monday’s eclipse in totality. We stayed somewhere in Pennsylvania on Sunday night, and one skinned Pecan knee from running by the motel pool later, continued the ride north Monday to meet up with family friends and their kids who had likewise made the trip from their home in Brooklyn.

Did we see the eclipse? Nope. Cloudy. It got dark, then it got light. It was weird, nowhere near as cool as we all tried to sell it to the children as being, and if the question is whether or not it was worth the five-hour drive home (The Patient Mrs. did the outbound trip; credit where it’s due) listening to The Pecan whining about not being able to play mahjongg on The Patient Mrs.’ phone, let alone the money for gas, food and lodging, my answer is a resounding no. Some you win, some you lose.

Tuesday I wrote all day. Following on from Spring Break all last week, this Wednesday was another day off from school for The Pecan. Most of the day was rainy and I chose to forego her ritalin since it was just the two of us and the dog, and I firmly believe that made her morning, afternoon and evening harder. She was a mess all day, and even after The Patient Mrs. came home from work to take her to her afternoon ice skating lesson while I did my remote-learning Hungarian language class upstairs, I could hear screaming from the ground floor. Something or other. Nothing that mattered for more than an intense four seconds, certainly.

I had gotten less than half of the Heavy Temple review that went up yesterday written in the morning before The Pecan woke up, and since I had homework to do before class, that was the sum total of my writing time for the entire day. It’s never enough, I know, but Wednesday was particularly spare. More so than I’d prefer, whatever the surrounding circumstances.

I’m still behind from that. I have the Horseburner album announcement — which was in my notes as DONE and which I’ve already fucking referenced in a post as a past event — waiting to be finished so it can go up. WyndRider got signed to Electric Valley for their second LP. That’ll be up Monday too I guess. I know this entire endeavor is small stakes, that nobody really cares about these things except me, and that I’m doing my best, but it is frustrating to put everything you can into a thing and come up short of where you want to be. That’s all.

So maybe Temple Fang closing the week is my way of telling myself to be less rigid. Or maybe they’re on my mind because next week is Roadburn and I’m actually going to be there for the first time in five years. That’s where I first saw Temple Fang, as well as Death Alley, of which Dennis Duijnhouwer was a founding member, and his prior band with Jevin de Groot, the cosmic-doom proposition Mühr, whose performance remains among the best live music experiences I’ve ever had.

I’m nervous to be back in Tilburg. I’m older. I’m worn down. I’m out of shape physically and mentally in ways that I just wasn’t in 2019. I’m tired all the time. Running in circles around my brain is the mantra that when the music starts it’ll all be okay.

Have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, watch your head, hydrate, all that stuff. See you back here Monday for a Darsombra video premiere and all the rest of it. For now I think I might head up the hill and check on my mom.


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