Temporary Residence: 20 Essential Tracks

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If you’ve been a fan of epic, emotional music in the past 20 years, chances are you’ve listened to, purchased or been intrigued by something released by the Temporary Residence label. Launched in Baltimore in 1995, the once smaller-scale label is now celebrating its 20th anniversary. In those two decades, they’ve released a lot of music, and a lot of that music has been excellent. In the early days, Temporary Residence started Travels in Constants, a mail-order CD EP series in which a rotating cast of artists—including Low, Mogwai and Bonnie “Prince” Billy—would issue exclusive material. And later on, the label would come to be a reliable outpost for powerful post-rock (Mono, Explosions in the Sky), soaring yet heavy bands (Envy, Coliseum, Young Widows) and a long list of artists that found a breathtaking middle ground between experimentalism and melody. It has since relocated to Brooklyn, but the label’s reach has expanded to scenes in Louisville, San Diego, Portland and Japan. To help them celebrate this milestone, we’ve assembled a list of our favorite tracks from Temporary Residence’s archives. Listen and read below.


best temporary residence tracks 90 Day MenThe 90 Day Men – “Hey Citronella”
from 1975-1977-1998 (1998)

90 Day Men are known today for their two albums of highly expressive and original post-rock, 2002’s To Everybody and 2004’s Panda Park. The group utilized a variety of influences and instruments, most notably piano, to create psychedelic voyages of sound that were equally progressive as they were experimental. That being said, if the only 90 Day Men you’ve heard is Panda Park, you may be surprised to find out that their 1998 EP, 1995-1977-1998—their only release on Temporary Residence—was even by the same band. 1995-1977-1998 is obviously indebted to all things Louisville, as Slint’s influence can be heard throughout—not too surprising, considering their standing as early post-rock progenitors—but perhaps more ubiquitous is the influence of Rodan. The closing track, “Hey, Citronella,” is perhaps the best example. The riff that opens the track is just short of awe-inspiring; catchy enough to get stuck in your head, but complex enough to ensure difficulty in that particular task (it is math rock, after all). There are nods to the post-hardcore scene too, especially in the rhythmic basslines and subtle tension throughout, just stopping short of complete abrasion. – BB

best temporary residence tracks Bonny BillyBonny Billy – “Sweeter Than Anything
from More Revery (2000)

The bulk of Will Oldham’s catalog lives on Drag City and his own Palace imprint, so the More Revery EP is an unusual curiosity in the Bonnie “Prince” Billy discography. The seven-track release is brief and solely comprises covers recorded live. This is an immedate standout, a rollicking take on a PJ Harvey track that was a b-side to “A Perfect Day Elise,” a single from 1998’s Is This Desire? It’s energetic and raw, with Oldham’s voice occasionally cracking, but it’s also one of the most kickass Bonnie “Prince” Billy recordings (sans “Prince” for some reason) you’ll hear. – JT

best temporary residence tracks MogwaiMogwai – “Quiet Stereo Dee”
from Travels in Constants Vol. 12

Mogwai are new members to the Temporary Residence family, having spent most of their career with Chemikal Underground and Sub Pop before starting their own label Rock Action. Recently, they moved over to the TR roster to put out their soundtrack album Atomic, but there was one moment early in their career when they crossed paths with the label as well. In 2001, Mogwai contributed three songs to the label’s long-running Travels In Constants mail-order series, including this beautiful Come On Die Young-era track. “Quiet Stereo Dee” is a dark, contemplative movement and an early indicator of the group’s eventual success with soundtrack work. In fact, the similarities between this piece and certain moments on Zidane are almost eerie. “Quiet Stereo Dee” later got a wider release on the CODY deluxe reissue, but it’s true home will always be with Temp. Res. LTD. – ATB

best Temporary Residence tracks BasinksiWilliam Basinski – “Dlp 1.1”
from The Disintegration Loops (2002/2012)

Temporary Residence collected and beautifully reissued the avant-garde composer’s four volumes of process music to mark the 10th anniversary of their initial release on the 2062 label. Their creation story alone could have been the stuff of legend: Basinski wanted to re-record some old tape loops for posterity, but the tape heads slowly removed their magnetic material as minutes and hours passed. In trying to save content he ended up destroying it; the preservation of decaying sound could have stood on its own as an uber-artistic representation of death. But his work was being completed during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and Basinski spent the remains of that day and much of the next tying these recordings to images of New York City’s smoking skyline. There are shorter, marginally more accessible tracks in this set, but the hour-long loop “Dlp 1.1” is probably the most important. With its horn sounds heralding a beautiful dread, Basinski picked it to back video of a long steady shot of sunset over a broken city and, ultimately, a changed world. – AB

trr55-230x230Cex – “Not Working”
from Being Ridden (2003)

Rjyan Kidwell, a.k.a. Cex, is by and large an electronic artist, with a catalog full of glitchy IDM and breakcore among other oddities (see: Actual Fucking). His 2003 album Being Ridden, however, was a showcase for his rapping skills (despite the album cover’s Bowie homage), which sound a bit like Aesop Rock pitch-shifted a little bit higher. That being said, while he didn’t pursue the rap game forever, he had himself a jam or two, this being one of them, a backpacker-rap identity crisis that climaxed in the chorus, “I’m gathering this money, but it’s not working/ And my moms is proud of me, but it’s not working.” Add in some twitchy laptop beats, ethereal guitar riffs and backing vocals by Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren, and you’ve got one of the weirdest but instantly likable underground hip-hop tracks of the early ’00s. – JT

best temporary residence tracks EnvyEnvy – “Distress of Ignorance”
from A Dead Sinking Story (2003/2005)

Envy’s A Dead Sinking Story had previously been released only in Japan in 2003, but two years later, Temporary Residence introduced American ears to the epic, emotionally charged post-hardcore group. Informed as much by the furious bursts of energy in the early ’00s screamo movement as they were by the more gradually evolving compositions of post-rock outfits such as Mogwai or Slint, Envy turned the fury of hardcore into a nuanced and beautifully cathartic thing, as evidenced by “Distress of Ignorance.” One of the more immediate, accessible tracks on the album, it’s a struggle between tense moments of unsettling quiet and overbearing walls of sheer volume. It punches your gut, rattles your chest and makes your soul tremble. – JT

best temporary residence tracks EITSExplosions in the Sky – “First Breath After Coma”
from The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)

If there’s one thing that Explosions in the Sky execute perfectly almost every time it’s a stellar, mood-altering opening track. And on their third album, the post-rock quartet started with perhaps the best intro of their career: a sweeping, nine-minute opus that slowly escalates from dreamy soundscape to a driving, snare-driven theme begging to be a soundtrack to a triumphant montage. It’s aggression without distortion; fury without anger. Then, that moment is cut abruptly and we’re left with another slow progression, building tension at an even more glacial pace until resolving into a beautiful, radiating close. – ATB

trr65-230x230Nightfist – “Chapter III: Herman Spectre Legacy”
from The Epic (2003)

One thing that’s amazing about Temporary Residence is the vast diversity of their catalog (in terms of genre.) But even in that context, Nightfist is a bit of a stretch, combining power-metal, prog-rock and genre-based elements to create an instrumental fusion that feels a bit like a Final Fantasy soundtrack coming to life in front of you. “Chapter III” is an epic, seven minute journey and, unlike the work of many of their more well known labelmates, the track never really eases up on the pace or intensity. Sure, Nightfist can be a lot to handle but, when you’re in the right mood, almost nothing else can satisfy that craving. – ATB

You Are There coverMono – “The Flames Beyond The Cold Mountain”
from You Are There (2006)

A significant portion of Temporary Residence’s catalog comprises artists who excel at crafting dramatic instrumental works, though each of them does so in different ways. Where Maserati rides krautrock grooves and Explosions in the Sky live up to their namesake via powerful crescendos, Japan’s Mono compose transcendent pieces that arc ever higher as they progress. They can be as fearsome as they are beautiful, as is the case on this highlight from 2006’s You Are There. Recorded by Steve Albini, “The Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain” balances a visceral rawness with an emotional core that’s alternately quietly devastating and massively cathartic. It’s a slow motion cannonball to the gut. – JT

best temporary residence tracks Rob CrowRob Crow – “Up”
from Living Well (2007)

The start of Rob Crow’s solo career wasn’t too much of a stretch from his time spent with Pinback (or Heavy Vegetable or Thingy), so it shouldn’t be a surprise that “Up” is a gorgeously understated yet complicated piece of indie rock. With delicate guitar, subtle bass and a steady drum machine at his disposal, Crow constructs a dark and lonely tune that exhibits just as much finesse in its fretwork as it does in its poetry: “They’ve been playing that song again/ They’re shaving it close again/ I’m a spark, you’re a wire.” – ATB

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