Review: Trees – Catzenatica
Ottawa is buzzing with new bands making new sounds, and Trees are one that jumped out at me as being different from the rest of the pack. Their new album Catzenatica really pushes the envelope, bringing a refreshing sound and unique approach to songwriting. Not only that, but the album sounds great – it is very well produced and achieves an aura that one can get lost in.
Although Catzenatica is experimental, it is still really accessible – even those who may not be as receptive to this kind of musical approach will appreciate how the album was put together. From the outset, opening track “Mild Jamaican” starts as a whirlwind of eerie sounding vocals, effects and instrumental noises. This really piques the interest of the listener, because one normally expects to determine how an album will “feel” once they start listening to it. However, in my experience, the best albums are the ones that leave you guessing as they unravel, never fully allowing for the listener to get too comfortable with the overall product. Lead singer Jonathan Matthews’ dynamic vocals are on par with those of Maccabees frontman Orlando Weeks, breaking any notion of standard lyrical phrasing and testing the limits of of his voice. From low to high to falsetto, the intricacy and originality in his voice is really well-suited for the type of music his band is making.
Tress obviously has a myriad of influences, merging styles and approaches to songwriting in one album. They create a dreamy, reverb-driven soundscape that echoes with beautiful guitar tones and flowing bass lines. The percussion is unique and guides the unconventional direction of the album, but it doesn’t overpower or drown out the delicate sounds of the guitars. This is often a very fine balance, because experimenting can often lead to getting carried away with one instrument over another. But this is not the case on Catzenatica, as a near perfect concoction of instrumentation, effects, and melody is achieved throughout the record. The layers of sound really stand out, and helps to create the overall ambience the band was going for in the recording.
Perhaps beginning as a three-piece instrumental band without a lead vocalist did them a lot of good, since there is a very clear emphasis on achieving a distinct sound from the instruments. Of course, the addition of Jonathan completes the package and makes Trees more accessible to a wider audience, but I think developing a strong sonic/instrumental basis first really helped the band hone their talents and overall sound they were striving to achieve.
Andrew Gelok – Guitar/Noise
Alex Johnstone – Drums/Beats
Jon Matthews – Vocals/Guitar/Bass/Synth
Alex Gelok – Guitar/Bass
Catzenatica released 31 October 2012
Recorded at Audio Valley Studios by Steve Foley.
Cover design by Sam Johnstone
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