Featuring such geniuses as Quelle Chris, John Dieterich, Joana Gomila, Laia Vallès, Shamir, Seb Rochford and many more, Temps’ ten-track debut album was produced, curated and devised by James Acaster. Released via Bella Union, this mind-bending opus rose from the ashes of an aborted mockumentary made with Louis Theroux’s money.
In February 2020, James Acaster decided he wanted to make a TV series about himself. Backed by Theroux’s production company, the show would see Acaster dramatically quit stand-up and side-step into the music industry with great pretension and naivety. But first, they had to make a mini-pilot to prove the idea would work. In a van driven by the crew, Acaster travelled to his hometown of Kettering and collected his childhood drum kit from his parents’ house. After contributing to a string of teenage bands, the old kit hadn’t been touched in twelve years, sitting dormant in its drum cases. The plan was to load it into the van, drive straight to a studio in London and record Acaster playing the kit for the first time in over a decade. But they had to make a second pit stop, to pick up a human-sized cuddly toy alligator from a friends’ house. The alligator was fluorescent in colour, sporting a large pink top hat and a tee shirt reading Party Gator. Acaster had won it at a county fair when he was 7, held onto it for decades, but had left it with said friends in 2012 after failing to convince a girlfriend to move it into their new flat. Now, in 2020, the Party Gator sat on a throne in Hoxton’s Holy Mountain Studios and acted as a muse for Acaster’s mockumentary-self; the two of them locking eyes as he recorded his rusty improvisations for two days straight. The final scene in the pilot saw Acaster listening back to his drum tracks, declaring them to be too sloppy, and recruiting award-winning jazz drummer Seb Rochford to play over the top of them. Then, we all know what happened.
When the first UK lockdown was announced, the mockumentary was scrapped and Acaster found himself sitting at home with hours and hours of solo drum tracks recorded by himself and Rochford. He was also in the fortunate position of having recently released a book and a podcast about modern music, for which he’d interviewed countless musicians, all of whom he was a massive fan of. And he still had their email addresses. So he spent the next two years sending tracks back and forth, between himself and his heroes, as they gradually discovered an album together. Genres were disregarded in favour of tightly-packed experimentalism and the death, afterlife and rebirth of the Party Gator provided conceptual guidance where needed. Everyone was given free reign to do as they pleased then Acaster would cherry pick his favourite bits, “a DIY Gorillaz” being the methodic touchstone.
With each contribution the songs would morph into something new and uncalculated, informing what came next. A freeform rap might encourage a sax solo, a baroque guitar line might prompt a choir of recorders - whatever the track was asking for, it got. This collaborative, transient approach led to the group’s name, Temps. During a time where everything felt weirdly temporary, they’d made something permanent and formed a collective, somewhere between a side project and a supergroup. When all recording was complete, James co-mixed the album with Chris Hamilton before ordering a custom-made Party Gator outfit for himself.
Acaster was acutely aware that the comedian-to-musician pipeline is always ripe for criticism so, while he always took the music seriously, he knew he must never take himself as seriously as the music. The plan had been for the original Party Gator to feature in the music videos but, shortly after the drum sessions, it was donated to a local school who then unceremoniously dumped it in a skip (Acaster’s still not over this). So a replica mascot outfit was made to James’ proportions and a series of low budget videos were filmed, consisting of the character running through theme parks, dancing in row boats and trashing hotel rooms, while Acaster gave himself heatstroke and a brief bout of labyrinthitis.
The first of the music videos spotlighted the heady lead single no,no - a fusion of atmospheric alt rock, unorthodox hip hop and loose jazz time signatures. It’s a song that lets you know exactly what kind of album is coming round the bend - an album that does whatever it wants, whenever it wants to. Densely packed opener lookaliveandplaydead pits sinister-sounding psych against conscious rap, while the expansive new single bleedthemtoxins fuses freewheeling jazz with brass wig-outs, before euphoric closer slowreturn shifts through alt-rock textures into heavenly, Shamir-assisted gospel. Listeners can look forward to rap verses from the likes of Open Mike Eagle, Denmark Vessey, Yoni Wolf and Wheelchair Sports Camp, big pop hooks courtesy of Montaigne, Law Holt, Mal Devisa and Xenia Rubinos, the eccentricity of NNAMDÏ, Gaston Bandimic, Me oh Myriorama and Babar Luck, as well as the sitar of Ami Dang, the flute of Elizabete Balčus and Foonyap’s theatrical strings.
Vast in scope and scale, and fizzing with an experimental energy, the trippy PARTY GATOR PURGATORY manages to blend a host of ideas, guests and moods into an album that draws you into its own unique world. “I became completely obsessed with this project,” states Acaster as he hand-draws the album’s artwork himself, using a trio of highlighter pens, “it was all I focused on for two years and we ended up making my favourite thing ever. I hope people enjoy it.”