Los Angeles quartet Red Temple Spirits skillfully mixes tribal post-punk influences — mid-period Cure, Savage Republic, early (Death) Cult — with a loving dose of lysergic psychedelia (Syd Barrett and Roky Erickson are particular touchstones). Bassist Dino Paredes (formerly of Psi-Com, with Perry Farrell) and guitarist Dallas Taylor coax entrancing drones and pulses from their instruments with judicious use of echo and other effects, while shamanistic frontman William Faircloth (a colorful immigrant from Britain’s original ’60s psychedelic movement) delves into mysticism (Native American on the first album, Tibetan on the second) with a grace and passion rarely seen before.
Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon is an astonishing debut. The luxurious packaging (double LP/single CD) mirrors the care put into the music, which tastefully incorporates flutes, bells and natural sounds (water, birds) to create a heady atmosphere of ritualistic ecstasy. Short catchy compositions like “Dark Spirits” and “Dreamings Ending” alternate with several long and complex pieces.
The follow-up, “If tomorrow I were leaving for Llhasa, I wouldn’t stay a minute more …”, is far more direct, both in the melodic music and the lyrics, which turn towards external/environmental stimuli. As crystallized by the gorgeous “Dive in Deep” and an incandescent cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” the theme of hope for the magic and beauty of life in the face of despair remains.
Prior to the Spirits, Faircloth lent his vocal ululations to the similarly psychedelic Ministry of Love, a trio that included guitar wiz Mark Nine. Although lacking the Red Temple Spirits’ brilliant chemistry, there are some great moments on the five-track EP, including “Living in the Moment” (a showcase for Nine’s e-bow mastery) and Faircloth’s touching ballad, “You’re Not on Your Own.”