Mark Roberts disappeared after his solo project The Enright House released its last album in 2007. He moved away from New Zealand, settled in New York, and set up the label Stars and Letters (through which excellent stuff such as Black City Lights were released). But his own musical output was fairly quiet. The Enright House’s stuff was moody and expansive – the type of music you’d listen to lose yourself in. We Are Temporary however is much, much more claustrophobic. It’s aggressive musically, but the lyrics betray a real fragility. Roberts’ explorations of textures and rhythm are confronting, but it’s an extremely rewarding album.
There are obvious musical parallels to artists such as The Knife and Bjork from the outset, in the use of electronic soundscapes that sound rawer and more human than acoustic instruments. Roberts spent years working on these songs, but there’s an immediacy that doesn’t feel over-produced in the slightest. ‘Hurt’, for example, pulsates with a fury that sounds almost uncontrolled. The electronic beats of ‘Afterthoughts’ sound almost tribal. This music clearly jars with anyone expecting the measured and beautiful work that had characterised Roberts’ previous music.
It is only in the midpoint of the EP that things seem to calm in terms of mood. Roberts’ voice becomes more soulful, and floats above the arrangements. ‘Satellites’ is gorgeous; a fragile, yet at times epic sounding piece. ‘Starash’ drifts, a welcome respite before the vaguely cathartic finale of ‘Swords’. The catharsis seems particular hard fought for – Roberts’ particularly blunt lyrics and uncompromising sounds make it, it’s fair to say, a challenging listen. The EP certainly feels like a purging in many respects of the personal challenges faced by Roberts in the lead-up to the release.
The EP links together, in spite of, or perhaps because of the eclecticism of the sounds and rhythms. It’s a complex collection of songs, but it’s also all too brief – there are plenty of ideas in there that would have made a great full-length album. I suppose the only response is to ask for more please.