Nov 1, 2017

RhoDeo 1744 Aetix

Hello, today an alternative to that imbecelic Halloween feast of fear and ignorance, some true gothic attentiveness to melancholy in all its forms is what makes todays artists stand out from their post-punk and gothic contemporaries. Typically, when it comes to music the gothic is understood either as a genre or a style, either as musical form or subcultural content, gloomy synths or tattered black lace dresses. This is all fine, but AATT are unique in that they understand the gothic in its literary context, in which the gothic is centrally concerned with an affective relation to mortality, finitude and temporality, a relation that can be described as melancholic. I would argue that melancholy – the kind of ‘unconditional sadness’ found in bands like AATT – this melancholy finds its fullest historical expression in the gothic sensibility of the 18th century, and particularly in the so-called Graveyard School of poetry of the period.

Today's artists an English post-punk band, formed in 1979 in Inkberrow, Worcestershire. They are notable for their poetic lyrics and evocative music which are strongly influenced by the native English countryside, in response to an ad by the Cure looking for support bands on their English tour, the group sent a tape and ended up doing several dates and later an entire tour with Robert Smith and co. in 1981. They still hadn't released any material at that point, so the Cure's Lol Tolhurst produced a single ("Shantell") and the band's eponymous debut album, released in February of 1984. Tolhurst's work made the Cure an easy pointer for And Also the Trees' sound, though the fragile beauty of Joy Division and the Chameleons also lend comparisons. The band contributed a session to John Peel's BBC radio show, and continental critics lavished praise on subsequent albums. The notoriously fickle U.K. music press, however, deserted the waning Goth fad and the group was left drifting by these pretentious prats . .....N'Joy

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And Also the Trees formed in 1979 in Inkberrow, a large village in Worcestershire, with a lineup featuring two sets of brothers: Simon Huw Jones (vocals), Justin Jones (guitar), Graham Havas (bass) and Nick Havas (drums). The band made their live debut on 12 January 1980 at Grieg Memorial Hall in Alcester. A home demo tape was sent to the Cure, who were looking for support bands on their tour, leading to a friendship between the two bands. In 1981, And Also the Trees played several shows in support of the Cure's UK tour. Their second demo tape, From Under the Hill (1982), was partly co-produced by Robert Smith and Mike Hedges. Graham Havas was replaced at this time by Steven Burrows.

In 1983, the band released their first single, "Shantell", which was produced by The Cure's Lol Tolhurst. Their second single, "The Secret Sea", followed in 1984 and was also produced by Tolhurst. Tolhurst also produced their debut studio album, And Also the Trees, which was released in February 1984. The band received the attention of BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, and were invited to do a session in April 1984, which was produced by Dale Griffin for broadcast on 24 April. The EP A Room Lives in Lucy (1985) introduced the mandolin-like guitar sound which became their trademark for the next few years. The next album, Virus Meadow (1986), was followed by their first European tour, which yielded the live album The Evening of the 24th (1987). Another EP, The Critical Distance, was released in 1987. The singles "Shaletown" and "The House of the Heart", and the next album The Millpond Years (1988,) were produced by Mark Tibenham. Farewell to the Shade (1989) was followed by the single releases of "Lady D'Arbanville" (a completely revised Cat Stevens cover) and the French-only "Misfortunes". In 1990, they changed their management. The band toured America during the following year, and reactivated contact with the Cure, which resulted in the USA-only release of the EP The Pear Tree featuring a remix by Robert Smith and Mark Saunders.

In 1992, the band released their last album produced by Tibenham, Green Is the Sea. They promoted it with a two-leg European tour including Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and France. Fan pressure resulted in a digital remastering of their singles and EPs, and the release of From Horizon to Horizon, a CD collection of primarily single and non-album tracks between 1983–1992. They issued their sixth studio album The Klaxon in 1993, and the band toured during the following year, which resulted in the release of the live album Le Bataclan and a tour video from a concert in Hamburg. In 1995, Justin Jones and Tibenham, along with Antonia Reiner, collaborated on a project called G. O. L., which resulted in the release of the album Sensations of Tone and the single "Soma Holiday". The album featured a cover version of the early And Also The Trees song "There Were No Bounds".

The band's seventh studio album, Angelfish (1996), centred on a British perception of Americana. It was the last album with drummer Nick Havas, who was replaced by Paul Hill. Their eighth studio album, Silver Soul (1998), was also the band's first release on their own eponymous record label. The band released an EP, Nailed, the same year as well as a video compilation, Live 89-98. On the 23 April 1998 the band played their first UK date in seven years at the Axiom Arts Centre in Cheltenham. After a five-year break, And Also the Trees released Further from the Truth (2003), recorded in the Worcestershire countryside and co-produced with Matthew Devenish. In 2004 and 2005, And Also the Trees played several shows at music festivals such as the Paleo Festival and Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Germany. They celebrated their 25th anniversary with the Best of 1980–2005 compilation album.

Live in Geneva (2006) showed the band in action on their Further from the Truth tour, as well as some video and film projects. That same year, Justin Jones collaborated with Bernard Trontin of the Young Gods for a project called November, releasing an eponymous album on Swiss label Shayo. And Also the Trees' 10th album, (Listen For) The Rag and Bone Man, was issued in November 2007. It featured two new members, Ian Jenkins (double bass) and Emer Brizzolara (keyboards, dulcimer and melodica). The accompanying photographs were taken by French photographer Jérôme Sevrette. In June 2009, the band released When the Rains Come, containing acoustic versions of previously released songs and one new track. This was followed by another acoustic album, titled Driftwood.

In the summer of 2011, the band worked on new material in Herefordshire and France. Later that year, Justin Jones provided guest guitar on the Othon Mataragas album Impermanence (with Marc Almond on vocals, and also featuring Ernesto Tomasini, Laura Moody and Camille O'Sullivan), followed by an intimate concert at London's Chelsea Theatre to launch the album. The band's 12th studio album, Hunter Not the Hunted, was released in March 2012. And Also the Trees' 13th album, Born Into the Waves, was released on 18 March 2016. The band's current live lineup also includes bassist Colin Ozanne (who played clarinet on the album) and keyboardist Grant Gordon


No band likes to be put into a box, and it's a mistake to simply label AATT as ‘goth’ since both their music and the goth subculture have drastically changed over time. But if AATT's music is gothic this is because they understand the term in its literary and poetic sense, as an anonymous melancholy, as an unconditional sadness. And it is a thread that is evident, though in different guises, in each of AATT's albums.xvi In their early works AATT map out a kind of melancholic, post-punk sound through instrumental sparseness and haunting lyrics, calling to mind Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Killing Joke (best exemplified by their inimitable song ‘Slow Pulse Boy’; one song from a demo tape contains the line ‘Green is the sea / And also the trees’). Melancholy exudes from these albums by virtue of their subtractive quality, shards of sentences, fragments of melodies, rhythms that hit the ground running and then come full stop.

This shifts during the late 1980s and early 1990s, as AATT adopt a more lush, baroque sound, characterised by guitarist Justin Jones' reverberant, mandolin-like guitar, and vocalist Simon Huw Jones' fuller, almost breathless vocals. The lyrics in albums like The Millpond Years (1987) and Farewell to the Shade (1989) often evoke despondent, rural landscapes, and the almost archetypal figures lurking within them.xviii In the 1990s AATT's sound shifted again, this time away from the aesthetic of 19th century Romanticism and its evocations of ghostly, rural landscapes and towards an urban melancholy, producing albums that called to mind film noir, Bernard Hermann and Nick Cave. The sound is more raw, resulting in a kind of industrial crooning against a backdrop of fuzz and electricity. And, at the turn of the millennium AATT shifted yet again, with a more intimate sound, bringing in elements of jazz and chamber music with new instrumentation (evidenced in 2003's Further From The Truth and (Listen for) the Rag and Bone Man from 2007, the former of which contains the elegiac ‘Feeling Fine’). This emphasis on intimacy and solitude has recently been complimented by two acoustic albums, When The Rains Come (2009) and Driftwood (2011), both of which feature unplugged renditions of early AATT songs.xix

In his lyrics, Simon Huw Jones pays homage to the tradition of the gothic sensibility in poetry and its ability to glean emotional insights from seemingly innocuous details and everyday gestures (in one song Jones sings ‘His box of birds / Weighs him down / As he walks / Far from this town’; in another ‘Far from the lantern swaying / Summer dusk, your seaweed breath / Screams brine out of the bay’; and in another ‘Cathedral quiet and narcotic seas / In a mind of tide-mark memories...’). At times his lyrics turn to narrative, constructing impressionistic scenarios of mythical characters, objects and scenery, culled from a bowl of rotting fruit, a hand on the shoulder, the slow meandering sunlight across the walls.xx At other times the lyrics evoke unpopulated spaces, broken landscapes and empty rooms, filled only by dusty memories and a kind of wayward, delirious nostalgia.xxi All of this is complemented by the music, much of which is characterised by Justin Jones' guitar, be it the shimmering swaying of songs like ‘Mermen of the Lea’ and ‘L'Unica Strada’, the skeletal lyricism of ‘Sickness Divine’ and ‘Feeling Fine’, or the plaintiff and elegiac sound on the acoustic albums.

The most recent AATT album, Hunter Not the Hunted (2012) is a kind of summation of the band's ongoing musical reflection on melancholy.xxii The song I've been listening to over and over is ‘My Face is Here in the Wildfire’. For me it represents one of the most distilled expressions of what AATT are all about. It also whittles the song structure down to two basic elements, voice and guitar, word and melody, the lyric and the lyrical (returning to the ancient Greek notion of a song rendered to the accompaniment of a lyre). The lyrics themselves are abstract, an almost surrealist juxtaposition of an impersonal, anonymous face melding perfectly into the natural world: ‘My face is here in the maelstrom / My fossil bones jutting out into the night air / And the insects, sacred / Whirling through my green black life-riddled hair’. On paper the lyrics read like poetry – but it's still the written word. When sung, the words take on a new form – they are almost emptied of semantic content and themselves become lyrical form. For instance, when Jones sings the line ‘I can hear the rooks in their light sleep crow’ the last three words are spaced out – ‘light....sleep...crow’ – so that they become detached from the grammar of the sentence, almost stochastically released, like rain drops on a window when it begins to rain.

In moments like these AATT take up lyrical form and in essence weigh it down with melancholy, so much that the words break apart, becoming so many scattered remains, strangely tranquil in their non-human habitat. This is not a lyricism of an expressive, emotional subject, but a lyricism turned outwards into the world, a kind of inverted lyricism, weighed down and rendered inorganic through this special type of melancholy. And it is this that I find resonant with the tradition of the gothic and graveyard poetry. A band like AATT takes up graveyard poetry's turn towards melancholy as a unconditional sadness, and in so doing they produce something that is actually an inversion of the traditional notion of lyric, in the sense of a poem uttered by a single speaker, and expressing a state of mind or feeling that is constitutive of that individual subject. Lyric is, in this traditional sense, interiority and solitude. Instead, AATT, like the graveyard poets, offers the exteriority of a world that persists in spite of us, but also an exteriority that we discover is always within us. Likewise, the solitude of these melancholic songs is not the solitude of the individual or even of the lonely crowd, but the solitude of the world, glimpsed in the numerous pauses of silence on which the graveyard poets endlessly dwell. What results is a lyricism of the impersonal, of climate, cloud, moss, river, stone and ruins.

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"So This Is Silence" kicks off the Trees' debut with a semi-tribal drum rhythm sounding not unlike something from the Cure's Pornography, albeit lighter; given that Cure drummer Lol Tolhurst produced the record, such a connection makes perfect sense. However, the Trees weren't, and have never been, mere clones of the Cure despite Tolhurst's help and Robert Smith's long-term patronage, though at this stage of their careers the band's collective influences certainly hung heavy. Flecks of all the early British post-punk/proto-goth big names crop up throughout, from Justin Jones' chiming, intricate guitar lines a la the Chameleons or the Comsat Angels to Simon Jones' Ian McCullochesque sense of vocal projection (unsurprising given how both singers took inspiration from Jim Morrison; the Doors' general sense of art-rock theater informs much of the album's general vibe, if not specifically the sound). While lacking in immediately catchy songs -- partially due to the fact that at this point the band generally favored series of verses or poetry without rhyme to more conventional lyric structures -- the album still kicks up some smoke, as with the quite atmospheric "Midnight Garden" and the first gentle, then brawling "The Tease the Tear." "Shrine" is especially noteworthy, given its intricate guitar work mixed with somewhat flanged effects, which soon would become a key element to the Trees' sound. Add to that some nicely melancholy cover art of a fog-shrouded forest and the generally rural setting of the lyrics, and a distinctly 'old' English flavor becomes clear, which would also help further set the Trees apart from other similar bands in later years.

 And Also The Trees - And Also The Trees (flac  200mb)

01 So This Is Silence 3:09
02 Talk Without Words 3:19
03 Midnight Garden 4:33
04 The Tease The Tear 2:53
05 Impulse Of Man 4:44
06 Shrine 3:38
07 Twilights Pool 4:37
08 Out Of The Moving Life Of Circles 4:05

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For their second full album, the Trees developed an even more arty approach than before, establishing what would become their basic sound for a number of years to come. Stripping down the instrumentation on most of the songs to a dark rhythm drive from Burrows and Havas, Justin Jones here concentrates on a series of electric guitar parts which combine the liquid touches of flange effects and folky runs on the frets, avoiding crunch in favor of delicacy, to create marvelously evocative musical shadings, rich in atmosphere. Along with Simon Jones' sometimes extravagant lyrical images of an older, more rustic and mystic time, with hints of Wordsworth's early Romantic poetry throughout - "The Headless Clay Woman" and "The Dwelling Place" give a hint as the at once nostalgic and dramatic direction - it gives Meadow a unique flavor for Eighties British rock. While some of the Trees' aesthetic may spring from the same creative well as a number of moodier British folk-based artists from earlier days - some of Nick Drake's more metaphoric numbers sprung to mind - the goth-tinged feel of the music makes Meadow all the more distinct. One could easily imagine it soundtracking an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, if not something even older. Some numbers, like "Vincent Craine," have a more conventional rock approach, but this is counterbalanced by the album's highlight, "Gone...Like the Swallows," a richly textured, powerful song featuring all the band members at their best.

And Also The Trees - Virus Meadow (flac 212mb)

01 Slow Pulse Boy 5:12
02 Maps In Her Wrists & Arms 4:20
03 The Dwelling Place 2:18
04 Vincent Craine 6:23
05 Jack 4:36
06 The Headless Clay Woman 5:26
07 Gone... Like The Swallows 4:16
08 Virus Meadow 4:53

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Having established what would be the basic Trees sound two years previously, the next few albums would see the band taking a path similar to that of the Cocteau Twins, spending time refining and playing around with a set model, but rarely stepping beyond said model. A band rehashing itself or merely playing to its strengths? On the basis of Millpond, clearly much more the latter. Helped in part by the additional keyboards of Mark Tibenham, which provide some delicate shades and fills on such tracks as "Simple Tom and the Ghost of Jenny Bailey," the Trees continue to produce impassioned, dramatic songs with lyrical inspiration in emotional extremes, rural settings, supernatural events, and mystic imagery, as song titles like "The Sandstone Man" and "Count Jefferey" (a frightening, disturbing number with a freakish bass intrusion from Steven Burrows) demonstrate. "The House of the Heart" is the stand-out track this time around, with strings and trumpet flourishes adding to a song notably lighter in musical tone than most of the Trees' songs, while not lacking the band's classic elements of reverbed guitar and Simon Jones' brooding vocals. "From the Silver Frost" also hits high, with a gentle, string-touched start building into a lovely instrumental track. As before, Justin Jones demonstrates how his use of reverbed guitar strumming can create breathtaking atmospherics, as on the opening "The Suffering of the Stream" and "The Ship in Trouble," a flat-out amazing number in which his guitar shadings provide the only music to his brother's evocative lyric. Nick Havas and Burrows provide solid rhythm work throughout; the net result: another great Trees album.

 And Also The Trees - The Millpond Years (flac 304mb)

01 The Suffering Of The Stream 3:38
02 Simple Tom And The Ghost Of Jenny Bailey 4:32
03 The House Of The Heart 3:03
04 This Ship In Trouble 3:20
05 Count Jefferey 6:16
06 Shaletown 4:11
07 The Sandstone Man 4:49
08 From The Silver Frost 5:22
09 The Millpond Years 4:45
10 Needle Street 4:45
11 L'Unica Strada 3:07

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Ironically, the Trees' only US release to date would begin with one of their most 'English' songs ever - and one of their all-time, flat-out best. "Prince Rupert," referring to the Royalist commander from England's mid-seventeenth century civil war, starts with a great bassline from Burrows, intricate percussion from Havas, Justin Jones' trademark guitar shadings and, as an extra touch, some marvelous keyboard lines from Tibenham (who also produced the album) that build into a sweeping orchestral backing, adding both beauty and drama throughout. Add to that a spot-on Simon Jones vocal, and the result is genius. Impossible to top as "Prince Rupert" is, Farewell comes consistently close throughout, such as with the semi-waltz time "Macbeth's Head" another classic Trees example of a title and subject matter! - the beautiful "Misfortunes" and "The Pear Tree," also appearing at the album's end as a remix by the Cure's Robert Smith, a long-time supporter of the Trees. More musical variety recurs throughout the album as well, with the synth-harpsichord led "Belief in the Rose" being a fine example, though sometimes the keyboards seem to get in the way of the regular Trees' musical vibe - an elaborate arty rock band they may be, but they are a rock band still (as the solid "Ill Omen" demonstrates quite well!), so hearing a keyboard take over the bass for "The Street Organ" makes for an odd touch, for instance. All this said, it's still the Trees at heart: story-driven songs, dark tones musically and lyrically, Simon Jones' deep vocals and Justin Jones' intricate guitar and all, especially on the surprising but incredibly apt cover choice: Cat Stevens' "Lady D'Arbanville," given a lush, bravura performance.

And Also The Trees - Farewell to the Shade (flac  312mb)
01 Prince Rupert 4:37
02 Macbeth's Head 4:08
03 The Nobody Inn 0:45
04 Belief In The Rose 4:08
05 The Street Organ 3:57
06 Lady D'Arbanville 4:24
07 Misfortunes 4:15
08 The Pear Tree 3:38
09 Ill Omen 3:51
10 The Horse Fair 3:34
11 The Harp 4:02
12 Anchor Yard 4:03

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apf said...

Thank you, Rho!

Whiskybob said...

The links all appear to be dead or removed. Is it possible to revive them?

Anonymous said...

I was just reading the band's Wikipedia page, stating that they went through some success, notably in France. Hey, we're not all that bad after all.
I've vinyls as "Et Aussi les Arbres", "The Evening of the 24th" and others. Don't you have digital versions, please, pleeeeaaase!

(I'm begging you.)

Anonymous said...

Having reading your presentation with high attention, I just have to approve. While I'm very found of their first album, "Virus Meadow" is some king of a marvel. There's absolutely nothing to throw in it, and "Gone... Like The Swallows" is just a gem (even through I'm surprised that you see it that way too, I was thinking it was all about us French, and our well-known moronic ways).

But the same can be said about "Slow Pulse Boy", "Vincent Craine", "The Headless Clay Woman", etc...

Anonymous said...

Thinking about it, I'm realizing, with time passing, that And Also The Trees are really something particular and precious (as someone well-known would say in The Lord Of The Rings). The sound they developped in "Virus Meadow" that is just their their second album, and really different from their first opus, is absolutely, imo, extraordinary.

Of course, I'm just discussing here about tastes and colours, and as goes the say in my country, as well as many others to be sure, such arguments have simply no sense.

But I keep the idea that these guys found an audience elsewhere they didn't really get at home. For some reason, I take it as something to be proud of (as one of such cavemen).

I know, that is silly ;-)

And thanks again for sharing your knowledge about all this.