If These Trees Could Talk – Above The Earth, Below The Sky – Album Review
Why do I feel like I should be bracing myself?
As the opening tones of “From Roots To Needles” start out this new album Above The Earth, Below The Sky by If These Trees Could Talk, they start in a very low-key, unassuming beginning…one that would certainly take you swiftly by surprise if you haven’t spent time in the loud/quiet corner of the instrumental rock universe. At least that was the genre I was assuming I had stumbled upon, right from the get go…and indeed began to brace myself for the musical explosion I knew was surely to follow.
Like many of my absolute favourites these days, there’s not a single word to be found here. Strange comment probably from this writer that spends his time moonlighting as a singer as well, but the music that is being made in the instrumental rock categories is by far some of the most wildly dynamic, emotional and intense music you can find out there right now in our present day. Bands like Mogwai have squeaked onto the fringe of the mainstream…while others like This Will Destroy You are just finding their way in now, but truly discovering the audience that is there and waiting for more of this music. And even earlier this month, I was convinced I had discovered what was the act most ready to join this crowd of excellent instrumental peers with the Transcend album by Ahimsa…and now we have this new album from If These Trees Could Talk, equally charged with intensity & emotion, equally ready to be among the best of the very best in this genre.
Can someone pinch me? It’s only January people…we’re barely halfway through and I’m already convinced I’ve heard a couple albums this year that will stay with me right through to the end of it and beyond…and this is certainly one of them.
I can appreciate the harder-edge that comes along with the music on Above The Earth, Below The Sky. Of all the bands I’ve referenced, I think they’re most comparable to This Will Destroy You, but perhaps with even more dedication to the intricacies of making music than This Will Destroy You, much more akin to the fantastic work by indie artist Ahimsa in that sense. The writing…the hard-work…the efforts in precision and the huge dramatics in sound…they’re all here. Confirmation comes immediately; the second track on this album “What’s In The Ground Belongs To You,” pulses along with a nearly Tool-like sound through the bass and rhythm guitar-line; but between the lead, the drums and the song-writing structure itself, they take these sounds to a completely different place. Like much of the music you can find in this genre done by the greatest-of-the-greats, the sounds of If These Trees Could Talk completely envelops a listener as wave after wave of sound comes crashing down overtop of us like an instrumental tsunami.
I really dig the slight, nearly Pink-Floyd-ish, “Terra Incognita” and how it floats us into the dreamy “Above The Earth.” Taking us into territory claimed by Explosions In The Sky on a regular basis…this completely beautiful guitar melody cannot be denied, ignored or unwritten…it’s fantastic. There has always been something incredible about this genre for its true ability to take the mind elsewhere as it still manages to really listen. Meditative I suppose…even with the loud/quiet aspect.
As “Below The Sky” starts out with instant melodic-intensity…I know that the quiet aspect is about to leave us once again…and that a blistering explosion is just around the corner. I love to pop-and-start of these drums, there’s a great pulse to this track and the drums are supplying that backbone…it might be a walk in the park for the drummer here, but it’s incredibly effective. The guitars…beautiful and swirling, converging and separating…and…AND…
…AND here it comes! Just before the three minute mark you’ll begin to get a taste of the thrashing-intensity to come…and shortly thereafter be enveloped by it totally. The dynamics of instrumental rock are simply incredible these days…and much like we discovered with Ahimsa, and now If These Trees Could Talk, we now know that our amazing independent music scene is housing music being made of the same astounding mettle. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that if Explosions In The Sky, and bands like Mogwai have been able to burst through to the other side, now constantly touring and playing festivals with hundreds of bands outside and inside their genre…but if they can find a way, so too can our independents like If These Trees Could Talk and Ahimsa. Both of these independents have impressed me beyond my wildest expectations already this year, both become essential listening for me in my own future to come.
The vicious assault that comes along with “The Sun Is In The North,” is gigantic in scale. As the lead guitars rip up and down like they’re surfing on this tidal wave of sound coming at us…the backing music is at a level ten and just tearing down the world in its wake. Crashing into the genius of another subtle track, “Thirty-Six Silos” you can also tell that the loud/quiet theatrics has been carefully laid out both within the songs, but also on the album altogether as this one is perfectly placed amongst the chaos. Starting out as inviting as a dinner-party…somewhere around the two-minute mark you’ll feel that vibe start to bend, start to change…as if you were being uninvited to dinner right in the middle of a mouthful. It becomes eerily strange and uneasy…right before said guest flips the entire table right over and takes off into the night. Okay…so my analogies are a little strange this morning…this FITS perfectly when you listen and you’ll get exactly what I’ve meant here.
Perhaps one of my favourite melodies on this album, If These Trees Could Talk take the music to an immaculate highlight for sonic tone & texture on the following track “The Flames Of Herostratus.” With echoing guitar-sounds you can truly stuff your ears full with…when the explosion comes it hits powerfully hard against the grain of these tones, matching a perfectly intense musical-fury with perfect choices, instincts and tone.
Another standout for the drums…second-to-last track “Rebuilding The Temple Of Artemis,” is an adventure unto itself. You’ll find a great many people that might be able to identify this as instrumental…a few that will be able to correctly identify this band’s overall sound as ‘post-rock,’ but very few that would actively understand the correlation to post-punk music. Listening to a track like “Rebuilding The Temple Of Artemis,” might help clear that up for the confused, or the people that haven’t heard that tie-in for these ‘post’ styles of music; but listening to this track will certainly help you appreciate that the rhythm lines in a song like that would easily make The Cure jealous that Simon Gallup or Robert Smith never came up with these clever ideas.
Ending with possibly my favourite on the album…well…that’s always a move that’s encouraged here! “Deux Ex Machina” is just a new template and standard for beautiful melody…no big deal lol. Seriously! What a fantastic way to end this album. No more surprises in volume at this point…just an extremely pleasant & perfectly-placed denouement to the album that highlights their ability for incredible tone and skilful musicianship that has already graced this entire track-listing.
How far away IS it to Akron, OH anyway? Cause I’m starting to think about a road trip the moment I hear music with as incredible of an impact on my ears as this…I need to see and hear this happen right in front of my face-holes now! But from what I can see…we’re still at the forefront of this band’s amazing career to come, riding the crest of their tidal-wave of sound. If you’re a fan of what this five-piece band self-describes as “Post-Whatever,” styles of music – get this album into your ears and mind as quickly as you can get to it.
And if you DON’T…or you don’t know if you are…grab a box of Sugar Crisp or Alpha Bits or whatever other Post-brand cereal you like and put this album on while you’re eating it & learning about what incredible music sounds like…we’ll consider that your ticket in for now.
Find out more about them at their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/treescouldtalk
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