Ocean Front Property, from Canadian sound artist and photographer Mark Templeton, is a record of conflicting tones and unrealised desires. Half of it escapes into a utopic dreamworld, (or wishes to), worming its way into the slinky trench of a warm, enveloping promise. The other half is unable to escape from the dull and listless repetition of a 9-5. It’s the option between a summer vacation of your choice, with no time limit on a return and the possibility of a spending spree, or time spent in lockdown, with a killer virus on the loose and the mid-June weather overcast and rainy, and there isn’t much in the way of competition. Ocean Front Property is a ‘longing to be somewhere else, a mirage of aspired imagery and sound’, and the one constantly pulls and tugs on the other, resulting in a record of beautiful conflict and occasional windows of tranquillity.
Recorded in Alberta, where the nearest ocean is over 1000 kilometres away, Templeton longs to escape the weather and the mundane, top up a sun tan, and embark on a vacation to a desired seafront, a paradise where entry is through music alone. Bright and scuffed notes, their full sound being eroded and passing into a thinner lo-fi sound thanks to a covering of seafoam or the wash of the water, glitter and wink like the sunlight as it falls over the sea, but it doesn’t feel real, somehow; you can tell it’s an illusion, that the light is already eight minutes old, not hitting the here and now, and there’s more than a hint of vaporwave to its aesthetic. There’s an unquenchable thirst to be here, on this beach, and in that respect, the notes are a form of hydration. Older horn sections are looped and left to drip and deform in the summer heat, like a scoop of melting ice cream.
A kinder atmosphere has entered the music, and Templeton wants to stay in the warmer climate for months on end, substituting Alberta for a beach house. Ocean Front Property’s lilting, clean guitar and the low scoops of its vibrato arm (a perfect technique in ambient music and sound design, but one that is inexplicably underused) as chords are gently lulled out present something of a tropical paradise, a cocktail of pineapples and palm-trees. Some of the loops echo out from an empty Miami mall on an early Saturday morning, just as the temperature is rising and before the crowds emerge. You’ll never want to go home again.