James Acaster landed in Leeds on Saturday 28th October for a reason different to that which you’d expect. For those fans of his standup, you may be aware of his previous drumming career and some of his questionably named bands (‘The Capri Sun Quartet’ and ‘The Wow! Scenario’ being just two of such). But over Lockdown he formed a 40 strong music collective called TEMPS. Their new album “Party Gator Purgatory” was released in May of this year. In collaboration with CLASH records and Project House, they created a TEMPS ‘Listening Party’ followed by a Q & A with Acaster as well as album signings. While Acaster majorly produced the album, the raw talent of his fellow musicians involved can’t be ignored and the announcement of the collaboration between pioneering musicians such as Quelle Chris, John Dieterich, Joana Gomila, Laia Vallès and Seb Rochford, all current figureheads in hip hop, jazz and spoken word, pricked up musically critical ears all around the world.
A point of refuge against the regular fizzy drizzle of Leeds, Project House opened its doors to rap, rock, and comedy fans alike. The spanking new venue had a real open, airy vibe, with soft trance music on entry which created a tranquil ambiance, especially for the early afternoon. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from a ‘Listening Party’ but started to piece together the mystery of huge speakers, numbered seats, and blackout curtains over a pint of Schofferhofer. The audience was about 300 strong, taking our assigned seats to face a bright white stage occupied by 2 huge leather sofas. We were all given neon blindfold eye masks. I sat thinking this might be the strangest listening experience I’ve had yet.
After some brief introductions and a quick “Hello!” from Acaster himself, they turned all the lights off, and blasted the album in full. Phones were turned off, other senses dulled, and we all collectively sat back for 55 minutes and 30 seconds in darkness to be truly immersed in this album. From the hip hop opener, we moved slowly though to more fast motion jazz. So many different genres intermingled and weaved together to create an intricate tapestry of creative souls crushing up against each other. After getting the chance to sit in a dark room to listen, I realised how much more I heard, felt, and divined from the record when listening this way.
After listening to the album in full (feeling slightly lightheaded and otherworldly), they moved onto the Q & A part of the afternoon experience. We began with Acaster’s own experiences, in finding his love for music age seven with ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’ and the importance of listening to albums in their entirety. After committing to his standup career, and the success that derived from it, he explained how it wasn’t really until 2016/2017 that he fully got back into music again. This was followed by Acaster talking about his book “Perfect Sound Whatever” which details his project to catalogue the albums of 2016 - to prove his point that it is the “best year for music ever”.
TEMPS as a concept began from a mockumentary idea of Acaster’s movement away from comedy to music. As lockdown came and went leaving him with hours and hours of his drum recordings (albeit slightly rusty after 10 years off the stool), he inevitably spiralled into creating something more with those sounds. Fortunately, as he avidly contacted many of his favourite musicians worldwide via Band Camp, they all had plenty of time to spare, and he explained how everyone got really engaged in the project, and it exists as a real snapshot of time for him and everyone else involved.
Words by Millie Cain she/her