Review Summary: Be quiet, you!
So let me go on a limb here and try to explain what ‘absolute serenity’ and ‘perfect calming record’ both mean. Granted, it is an individual question, to each their own. However, even in the case of everyone having some preference of their own, there must be something that has the same effect on at least the most amount of people, if not everyone. What could that be？ Well, I find the most soothing in gargantuan beauty of black metal, but I doubt that’ll enthral many. Next best thing, something ethereal and ambient, which in and of itself is designed to cause as little stress as possible. But that runs the risk of putting people to sleep (I know this of myself). Great, we’re narrowing it down, soon we’ll find some optimal middle ground (spoilers: I’ll settle for this album). It needs to be melodic for pleasantness’ sake. It needs to have variety of instruments for purposes of intriguing the more technical-minded fellows. And it needs a pleasant atmosphere. You can’t go anywhere without the right atmosphere. So to recap: quieter, but with some instrumental edge and variety, atmospheric and melodic. It probably could also use themes of things generally regarded as pleasant, like other worlds, where all is fair and fine, creeks, forests and grass…
…and also the trees.
Oh wait a minute! I didn’t even realise this, when I was writing this review for an album I already had picked out, or when I was pressing the Add a Review button on this band’s profile, but this whole time I was actually talking about Born Into the Waves
by And Also the Trees. How peculiar a coincidence that this album checks out all the boxes and I just so happen to be thinking about it all throughout writing these sentences. Brick over me head, I might as well just have found the one perfect calming record. Well, might as well try it on for size, woulncha’gree？
Bass-centric, how usual for a post-punk derivative. Softest drumming, rhythmic, no banalities here. Distanced lead guitar designed only to create the proper atmosphere, swirling and creeping on the background with its howling tones. Cold, cold vocals. I might as well be witnessing a grisly fairy tale, where the bears and fairy folk talk, but with a funny accent. ‘Your Guess’, the album’s opener, also knows how to explode (subtly) into some sort of chorus, somehow adding a little volume to each instrument and deepening the atmosphere to suddenly feel like a cool midnight swim. Then it repeats on “Hawksmoor and the Savage”, although this cut is by en large even quieter than its predecessor, but about the same as its successor, “Winter Sea”. The latter then changing its tune almost completely come the chorus, becoming musically rapturous, drums a thunder, guitars sounding more like flutes or wailings of women.
But not to worry, energy has not abandoned this place just quite yet, for “Seasons and the Storms” becomes one of the album’s most vibrant and bluesy tracks, just by having drums that are not as rare as with the other songs. I suppose that it has the potential of tearing you out of the quietness the previous tunes established, but only if you choose to ignore the tearjerking caress of its lovely melody. And no worries, you who doesn’t want the album to turn bluesy, but rather stay in the solemn chamber solitary confinements the first three songs have provided, for “The Sleepers” are here to rescue you. Certainly a faster cut, but structured like, dare I say, a post-rock song. “Bridges” then are of similar pace, but toned down and the bass is on full display again. Plus, it explodes into beautiful emotional shambles midway through.
I suppose it is only fair that after such tumultuous ride, the album needs to calm itself down a little and go for a vocals-and-sound-effects-only cut, “The Bells of St. Christopher’s”. In it, all you hear is the voice Simon Huw Jones and some odd, distantly menacing sound effects coming together into pseudo-music. An unusual turn of pace for And Also the Trees, but barely an unexpected one. And just as it made sense for this song to appear, it makes sense for its exact opposite to follow it. That is, a song with no vocals, only music. “Naito-Shinjuku” features the same kind of guitars that sound like something between flutes and strings, synths that come off as distant cries and special effects that make you feel like you are in the middle of a God-forgotten-but-not-forsaken village.
And so we near the end, a little more soulful, dreamy bluesiness with “Boden” to reassure your broken heart that all will be okay, and a little more bitter sweetness to fill you with hope for the future and fear at the same time on “The Skeins of Love” and suddenly the journey is over.
So it’s over then. You are now left to dwell in this silence for all eternity (or until you put something else on), having to live reformed through music. Born Into the Waves
provides a much needed escape from turbulent or monotonous lives we lead. It feels like deep diving from a cliff into a sea of blankets, being rear-ended with a hug, having a warm milk with honey (or other heavenly nectars) just before bedtime. It feels like utter serenity. It feels like a walk in the rose garden, but all the spikes have been trimmed. It’s breezy outside, and you walk through alleys and flowers and fields and walk by lakes and seas, where soothing calm is born into the waves, walk along rivers and see animals and insects…
…and also the trees.