Tenement & Temple is the latest band from Scots legends Monica Queen and Johnny Smillen who originally started together in Thrum and have worked together as well as with among others like Snow Patrol and Belle & Sebastian. For Tenement & Temple they are joined by Signy Jakobsdottir, Grimsi Hallgrimsson and Don Rooke.
The opening Loving Arms sets the tone and deeply resonant timbre for this spare and desolately beautiful music that is part church like almost choral and certainly full of pastoral beauty that belies the lyrical tale of tenement living and a relationship falling to pieces and arms are no longer loving in a beguiling way this sounds like a fairly fond farewell for a former loved one.
I Know is gently strummed in fields of green as the angels sing in the background as Monica gently lays her soul bare and pleads for him to come back once more a gently pulsing sound of a heartbeat lifting things up towards heaven or like a spiritual incantation.
10 More Years is a wonderfully windswept list song of all things he'll do if she has 10 more years of you and it might not be a totally standard list and the swirling strings have more than a touch of the Burt Bacharach about them but the sound is really rich with a swirled guitar solo gently counting out the time.
Well what will Monica say about your Sweet Face well it's like a gentle chant towards celebration and she could almost as easily be singing about the lord as her lover as the backing vocals as much an choral texture as anything and you really should look at that sweet face through candle light in a chapel.
Ripa has an almost fado feel to it but being sung in a high gothic church with the sounds soaring upwards to the angels where the choir are high above. The Ripa San Francesca in Rome that Monica is singing about it's certainly a church I want to pay another visit too and also to walk once more around that area of Rome listening to this.
I Only See You In the Dark is a beautiful denouement of a song as the lovers come together in the dark in a room with several hundred candles burning they drink from Chalices of red wine before they entwine kind of feel to it.
It's Been A While Lord is a very gentle prayer to give thanks for the life Monica has and for the good things in life this sounds very familiar and very lovely too. One Room House is a sad little tale from the tenement side of life living in a one room house and how you can't get away from each other when things don't go so well as there life has been going downhill for a while over this nice slow country blues.
The slow wistful barely there yet gloriously beautiful Where The Wild Roses Grow is just so lovely and not the Nick cave song of the same name.
The album closes with a change of backing band as Strange Blue Dreams accompany Monica in a slow baleful version of Blue Moon that has more raw emotion in it than many of the standard versions of this classic they make it sound like it would be the perfect soundtrack song on a darkly gothic noir show on Netflix but is also wonderful to hold someone tightly too as is most of this album.
This album will really reward repeated listening and should be heard in a darkened room with candles and red wine etc please go and get a copy find out more here https://www.facebook.com/TenementandTemple/