My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Monday, 16 July 2012

♫ Music Showcase: And Also The Trees ♫

Band Name: And Also The Trees
Genre: Post-Punk, Alternative Rock
Language: English
Active: 1979-Present
Origin: England
Page: ::Official Website::

This post has been so much fun to write, partly because as I've been writing it, checking my facts and suchlike, I've had their music playing constantly as a soundtrack.

I adore And Also The Trees. And Also The Trees are a British band, from the first wave of dark Post-Punk 'Goth' rock in the '80s, but not as well known or as well-played as acts such as Bauhaus, Joy Division, early The Cure, etc. They are comprised currently of Simon Huw Jones (vocals), Justin Jones (guitar), both of whom are original band members from 1979, and Steven Burrows (bass) who replaced original bassist Graham Havas, Ian Jenkins (bass, double bass) who joined in 2004, Paul Hill (drums) who replaced original drummer Nick Havas, and Emer Brizzolara who plays keyboards.

They were founded in the Worcestershire village of Inkberrow (which makes me think of "ink barrow"), and came to prominence after they sent off a home-made demo tape to The Cure, who really liked what he heard. And Also The Trees ended up playing in a support slot to the Cure, and a friendship formed between the bands. Their second demo 'From Under The Hill' was co-produced by Robert Smith and The Cure's producer Mike Hedges and their first two single releases ('Shantell' and 'The Secret Sea') along with their debut proper album, the eponymous And Also The Trees, were produced by The Cure's drummer and keyboard-player Lol Tolhurst.

And Also The Trees were heavily inspired by their rural origins, which is evident in not only their choice of name, but in many of their lyrics, and in how they craft sonic landscapes from their songs. I guess this is one of the reasons I enjoy listening to them so much, I come originally from a rural Oxfordshire village, and my own creativity is always returning back to the woods and fields of that first home. Now that I live in the Highlands of Scotland, it is again the landscapes that inspire me. Their 1986 album "Virus Meadow" is described as "an album of rich, pagan melancholy & disturbing laments" on their website and I think that encapsulates exactly what I like about the album.

They do not describe themselves as 'Goth', although they state their Post-Punk origins, but being so poetic, so dark, and considering their early sound, I think that the term aptly describes their early musical output. (I think this would be an apt moment to remember ::this article::
I wrote).

They've had a long career in dark and brooding music, having been founded in 1979 and still being active today. Their music has explored a variety of styles and influences over that time, some of it a very long way away from 'Goth', and unlike some musicians of their era, they are still actively producing new material, with their latest album 'Hunter, Not The Hunted' being available on CD and on vinyl off their website. They have been fairly consistent in writing songs with decidedly poetic lyric content and something unnerving and melancholic in nature. Personally, I am quite happy that they strayed into a variety of styles, because this variety has allowed them to express more than they could have done had they stuck narrowly to what they sounded like in the '80s.


Some of their songs are certainly very Gothic in lyrics (in the literary meaning of the term), writing about morbid and eerie subjects, such as the lyrics of 'Scythe & Spade'. When I first heard this I thought of 17thC poets, and I wasn't far wrong at all - the lyrics being a direct reference to a quote from the James Shirley poem 'Death The Leveller'
"Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.
"
Which in the lyrics of the song forms the basis of each verse, although fabulously elaborated on in a style in keeping with the poem, and "with the poor crooked scythe and spade" forms the last line of each verse. Here we have a rock band, albeit a Post-Punk rock band, building a song around a 17th century poem about death - in Shirley's case about how the victorious warrior and those that die in battle, as well as kings, all die eventually, a response to the English Civil War and in A.A.T.T.'s case, about how the rich and powerful die and decay the same as the humble. It is a 20thC memento mori in song form, and even if not entirely original, definitely poetic. I think that rock musicians mining the rich seams of British poetry, especially from that period, is a fabulous thing to be happening. Punk is often associated with being an anti-culture, a rebellion against all institutions including the canons of "high art" and "high culture", and here is a Post-Punk embracing it and using it as creative fodder.

They also covered Cat Steven's 'Lady D'Arbanville' in a way that, if you didn't know the Cat Steven's original, you would think was taken from some centuries old ballad, that Lady D'Arbanville was not some 20thC actress and model, but a long dead-aristocrat lying in state in some chapel of pointed-arches and candles.  I think it comes from both Simon Huw Jones' lamenting voice and the swirling orchestration being translated by my decidedly dramatic imagination. (An aside: I have soft spot for the Gigliola Cinquetti cover of 'Lady D'Arbanville' - how not-Goth is that?).

Their music draws me in; with each song I feel like I've been brought into some scenario set before me - their music isn't always necessarily strictly descriptive or narrative, but when it is I really feel like I am there, for example 'Pale Sun' makes me think of claustrophobic fog over a small rural British town, sometime decades, maybe centuries ago. I can see all the lyric details in my minds eye, when they talk of geese and weathervanes.
And it's not just the lyrics and the title, it's the music itself. It is murky, everything sounds slightly muffled, petering out into obscurity at the end like a fading dream or an image receding into fog.

Fashion/aesthetic wise, there's a few rather striking black and white pictures of them in Victorian-esque garb looking brooding in front terribly ornate columns and arches (a youtube commenter said "They look like vampires" and I have to agree), and some far more recent pictures of them wearing black suits, black shirts and black ties. They tend to be associated with eerie black and white landscape photographs, which is rather fitting.

I could write several pages about them, and probably already have (maybe I should copy and paste this lot into word and see how many sheets of A4 I'd have taken up if this was in hard-copy rather than on a blog?) but really, the only way to get to know a band is to listen to the music. My favourite album is The Rag and Bone Man, identifiable by its high contrast picture of a ruined cottage (a ruined building, in black and white, set in an ominous landscape, cloudy sky, right up my street in terms of photography) . Here is a suggested playlist, in which I've tried to have a bit of variety. 



Suggested Playlists
❧ "So This Is Silence" from 'And Also The Trees'
❧ "Midnight Garden" from 'And Also The Trees' 
❧ "Virus Meadow" from 'Virus Meadow'
❧ "Maps In Her Wrists and Arms" from "Virus Meadow"
❧ "Scythe and Spade" from 'Farewell To The Shade'
❧ "Misfortune" from 'Farewell To The Shade' (slightly more upbeat). 
❧ "The Pear Tree" from 'The Pear Tree' (I like the Robert Smith remix version)
❧ "The Way The Land Lies" from 'The Rag and Bone Man'
❧ "Domed" from 'The Rag and Bone Man' 
❧ "The Beautiful Silence" from 'The Rag and Bone Man'

4 comments:

  1. How do you follow blogs on the new blogger? I seee the google connect and follow by email but they no longer have the follow button on the top page. I can't see the blogs on google connect on my dashboard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On your dashboard should be your "reading list", underneath that is the "add" button, click that and you can add blogs to your dashboard reading-list manually by copying in the urls. I can't find the "follow" button either.

      Delete
  2. I listened to several songs by this group today and I have to agree with you, their music is definitely punk to post punk, is quite dark and qualifies as early Goth; at least in my opinion.

    Thanks for posting this. I'll definitely be listening to them again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like them, regardless of what genre they fall into. I think some of their later work is more alternative rock (of a more progressive, less hipster definition) and these albums and such hold many of my favourite pieces. I love their later inclusion of double bass and other instruments and their preference for real instruments over synths, and their eternally eerie sound.

      Delete

Please be polite and respectful. Comments containing gratuitous swearing and insults will be deleted.