You can never accuse Joe Raglani of slacking. The largely instrumental musician, whose output has ranged from shoegaze-kissed guitar loops to modular synth-driven exercises in noise, has released more than 25 albums and EPs over the past fifteen years. Several have been released in handsome vinyl editions on labels such as Editions Mego and Kranky, while others have been self-released under his own Pegasus Farms imprint.
His love of vinyl and physical media isn't surprising given his day job, which involves sorting and grading 45s for a local vinyl distributor. And while his output is, on the whole, voluminous, the last official Raglani album was released in 2012. He recently broke that silence with Extinctions, a full-length release available digitally through Bandcamp.
But it's another project that has Raglani most animated these days. The longtime solo artist has linked up with Erica Sparks to form Temporal Marauder, a duo that marries the mutant pop styles of Stereolab and Broadcast with a wide palette of samples, guitar twang and synth textures. The pair's debut single is forthcoming, and final mixes are underway for a full-length album.
It's not the first time that Raglani has made music under that name. In 2011, Temporal Marauder released the LP Makes You Feel, which coupled a largely instrumental soundtrack reminiscent of German motorik groups like Can and Neu! with an intentionally obscure backstory.
"Temporal Marauder has always been a fake band, or a make-believe sort of thing," says Raglani, who created a press release that claimed that the music was an archival release from the '70s, attributed to Jean Logarin (an anagram for Joe Raglani). It ended up being one of his most-loved releases despite, or because of, the obfuscation. "It's the only album of mine that ever broke even, and it doesn't have my name on it. So, oh, I get it," he says, laughing.
When he and Sparks began making music together, he felt like it was time to bring Temporal Marauder back to the present day.
"I really liked the name and it was always meant to be a band — it was a band with a bunch of make-believe people and pseudonyms and all this stuff, because I didn't have anybody to play that kind of music with," Raglani says. "Now that I have someone to make music with, I thought I'd revitalize that idea."
"The myth turned into a reality," Sparks notes.
The albums that brought Raglani the most acclaim, at home and abroad, are made up of music composed on his modular synthesizer, an interconnected matrix of plugs, knobs and wires that, in his hands, can generate patches that move with the speed and serenity of an iceberg, or by contrast, dizzying polyrhythmic movements. But for the Temporal Marauder material, he takes on the role of both producer and instrumentalist, largely performing on guitar. The songs often have roots in samples — symphonic swells or spy-movie grooves — but the reliance on recognizable pop structures and the up-front nature of Sparks' vocals differentiates this from much of Raglani's earlier albums.
The pair, who are romantic as well as musical partners, didn't conceive of starting a band together. He initially wanted a female voice for one of his tracks, and she offered to sing on it.
"She added a nice little vocal melody hook to it, and the next thing we did after that happened really easily too," Raglani says. "So then I started to see some potential of working together."
Raglani still composes the words to the songs, but it is Sparks who delivers them, with a clear and guileless approach that lends itself well to some of the tracks' sing-song melodies. She also fills in keyboard, adding organ and harpsichord touches that sound plucked from an old Italian horror soundtrack.
"I have an ear, which I think helps greatly with this project," says Sparks, who has more of a rock & roll background and whose musical upbringing encouraged her forays into musical theater as a student. "It's a passion — I love to sing."
If Raglani was more accustomed to working alone — creating patches, manipulating samples, working behind a bank of wild and wooly electronic gear — Temporal Marauder taps into his collaborative mode. And as he and Sparks navigate their artistic and domestic roles, it's not surprising that those two spheres continue to overlap in the pair's south-city apartment.
"The genesis of the songs, and the words, all come from me, and she can do harmony and some arrangement and also some keyboard chords," Raglani says. "I basically have the sound in my head and I sit at a piano and play it, and she'll be in the kitchen and I'll say, 'What do you think of this?' She'll come in and she'll watch me, over my shoulder, and write down what I'm playing. If that doesn't happen, we'd have forgotten what we had played."