I get lost in 2814’s Rain Temple LP every time I listen to it. I read something this month that pretty much hits home on how I feel every time I’ve listened to the recently released album. It was in Tricycle magazine, a Buddhist publication, and the article quotes ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice…”
Heraclitus emphasizes the changing, impermanent nature of a river. It looks like the same river as yesterday. It has the same name. However, that water running apace ain’t the same. So too Rain Temple, which fully adheres to the idea that you can listen to a record repeatedly and always find something new. It’s ostensibly the same, finished set of recordings — I have only the one digital copy of the album I bought on Bandcamp. But with each listen, I hear new instruments, moods, and suggestions, and deeper emotions that turn caverns into canyons into galaxies. Pensive musings become extreme paranoia and joy becomes sadness, and vice versa.
What an extraordinary record to experience.
2814 is a collaboration between Hong Kong Express and t e l e p a t h, both considered by some to be vaporwavers. Although I’ve never really grasped what vaporwave is, and think I’m probably past the point of understanding the genre. What I do know is that individually, and as a duo, the two make some phenomenal ambient, electronic music that’s replete with dark spaces as much as it is the light.
One important point about Rain Temple. Oftentimes, music as contemplative and inspiring as this evokes vast natural landscapes, designed to transport us weary urbanites to some pristine valhalla like Iceland’s mind-blowing countryside, the beautiful and unapologetically dangerous majesty of K2, or an unspecified place designed to evoke separation or a sense of other, like “the rain forest” or the steppes of Central Asia. Records that do this abound.
However, much of 2814’s three LPs have existed in a decidedly urban, often subterranean sphere, making my late-night subway listening sessions of Rain Temple and previous 2814 work all the more appropriate. Nevertheless, there is also something about their work that resides in the light.
It seems that in the massive, breathtaking soundscapes HKE and t e l e p a t h create is a duality that is always changing. Sometimes pure noir and sometimes bathed in light, and occasionally small and intimate or unfathomably gigantic; but always important and always injected into the very fabric of the soul of the listener. This is, folks, a powerful work of art.
Rain Temple represents a more ambitious run for 2814 over their last collaboration, 2015’s 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day). That record was an exquisite wash of urban minimalism, but on Rain Temple the pair aim so much higher.
Take, for example, the opener, “Before the Rain.” The song begins with a tease that crescendos into a full-blown and shimmering cinematic revelation. Together we learn and feel something massive amid the thundering drums, the huge bass, and the chaotic, Glassesque runs that come together over gigantic choir samples and atmospheric synths. The storm hasn’t hit yet, but our ambitions are a-brewing.
The album moves on to “Eyes of the Temple,” with the rain now in force. You can hear the white noise of precipitation amid the chatter of birds before it opens the door for heavy beats and a crystalline hook that repeats ad infinitum to create a sacred hypnosis. There are urban myths and then there’s this, an urban religion.
“Lost in a Dream,” a collaboration with singer/songwriter MXXA, slathers rain drops all over a sexy cut that sounds like Massive Attack shot full of opioids. The track is humble, with subtle and sacred synths and polite rhythms slowly supporting the beautifully disembodied vocals of MXXA, who plays the role of 2814’s Martina Topley-Bird with great deftness. Urbanity, in all its forms, often comes as a nightmare and leaves as a dream.
The shift from “Lost” to “Guided By Love,” a song that Enigma’s Michael Cretu could use each morning for meditation when he awakes atop a skyscraper, is a glorious one. Its gigantic, swirling synths and pronounced drum hits articulate not only the purest of morning intentions, but also the positive and negative atmospheric changes that occur when two people just click.
The two burgeoning lovers could be eating potstickers at a food cart together on a dark, rainy night, laughing it up and building intimacy. Or maybe they’ve been together awhile, and they’re standing firm with glory as they overlook the vastness of their cram-packed city. Regardless, the union of essences is a confirmed and affirmed quantity here.
Moving beyond that half-way point, 2814 shifts gears a bit with “Transference.” This is a somewhat mechanistic, vastly crystalline number that mines the 2814 repertoire to emphasize the art of intention. What is being transferred is up to the listener, but it seems to me the duo are transitioning whatever disparate core philosophies they had in mind in the first half of the record to some more refined idea of the self.
“The Body,” next up, seems to support that idea. What is the self here? Is it a bunch of ideas coalescing into one mind? Or two minds? Or two people’s soul elements mixing themselves up to create a duality-minded single person? Who the hell knows? This bluesy cut, with a killer beat that skitters beneath a calming but ultimately saddening melody, seems kind enough to leave itself open to interpretation.
What comes next is a bit more ethereal and lot more hypnotic. “Contact” crescendoes into a cascade of ambient sounds, drawn-out comfort notes, and distant and angelic voices. Every move is huge and pronounced, as if the narrow, dark streets of a dense city have lit up, experiencing the vastness of the heavens after years of buildings obfuscating beautiful, healing illumination. Was it human contact? Was it the exchange of the selves that did this? What brings light to a city’s darkest spaces?
Finally, for the closer, 2814 brings us “Inside the Sphere.” We’ve spent only a single, but lengthy, night together in a town stuffed to the gills with buildings, people, trees, garbage, rats, ambitions, various failures, darkness, light, silence, and beautiful music. Now that we’re fully into this thing, we’re ready to embrace it.
Many of the elements of the album come together — skittering back beats, glorious ambient synths, catchy melodic themes, and the glorious hope and crushing trepidation that comes along with all of it. It’s massive and fascinating. It’s all so compelling and thought-provoking. And then it all stops rather abruptly.
Throughout all of this, we’ve achieved some goal — whatever that may be — and now we’re stuck having to deal with what to do next. Not just the consequences, but everyday or the everyminute or everysecond. What happens when things happen? Now that we’re in the sphere, what do we do?
Rain Temple is out now on Bandcamp from London-based Dream Catalogue. Stream it below and definitely buy it.