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'Above The Earth, Below The Sky'
(Metal Blade Records)
Release Date: 27th January 2015 (re-release)

Luke 'Loki' Milne

Luke Loki Milne

if these tress could talk

Formed during 2005 in Akron, Ohio, instrumental post-rock five-piece If These Trees Could Talk are set to be thrust into the spotlight with a very special release from Metal Blade Records.

To give a brief history of the band's discography, 2006 saw the release of the band's debut EP, which was followed by their first full-length album 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky' in 2009 and a more recent release in the form of 'Red Forest' in 2012.

The independent release of these two albums launched If These Trees Could Talk into a whirlwind of success with the band taking part in a sold-out European tour in 2012. Oh, and their work has also appeared in video games, television and even in media used by skate footwear giant Vans. During the past year, ITTCT have been preparing to storm the gates of the music scene yet again with the release of a third album, expected some time later this year.

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While recording takes place under the new management and watchful eye of Metal Blade Records, the powers that be have seen fit to re-release ITTCT's back-catalogue of albums in a "double-whammy" manoeuvre. That's right folks, both 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky' and 'Red Forest' will be available for purchase from today, 27th January 2015.

Since there's two albums to cover here I'll be splitting the review in two parts; one for each release. Working chronologically, it seems only right to start with ITTCT's debut release, 2009's 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky'.

The album opens with 'From Roots To Needles', and instantly it becomes clear to me how ITTCT's music would fit within video games, product advertising or even films. This opening track conjures memories in my mind of John Murphy's 'In A House, In A Heartbeat', which many horror fans will recognise from post-apocalyptic zombie flick 28 Days Later. It's ambient, atmospheric and aggressive in all the right places, working to build up tension throughout and creating a huge presence that is both impressive and satisfying to experience.

Working through the album (which stands at just 43 minutes long), each of the ten tracks presented here seems to embody a compositional style most often seen in Classical music, referred to as 'Variation Of A Theme'. Each track seems to echo the last in some way, borrowing musical phrases from previous songs while driving the content forward, adding in new ideas or warping revisited material into something fresh, adding in new dimensions and emotional expression.

Whether or not this is intentional remains a mystery for now, but it works incredibly well and creates an album that is a well-rounded experience from beginning to end. You may recall my recent review of Alt-Rock act Sumia's 2014 release 'Until We Shine Again', in which I commented on the nature of their music and the fact that each track felt to me to echo the last, much like here with 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky'.

Thankfully, the unfortunately 'monochromatic' nature that I spoke of regarding Sumia's release doesn't seem to feature in ITTC's work. Each track is varied enough to bring something new to the table, with no two tracks sounding too similar to create an unwanted lull in the overall experience.

There certainly seem to be a lot of musical influences colouring 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky', and the instrumental nature of the music by If These Trees Could Talk allowed for an interesting debate to brew in my mind.

At odd intervals throughout the album I found myself wondering if more ambient tracks like 'Thirty-Six Silos' would benefit from some Fink-esque vocal work, or perhaps if the rhythmic feel of 'The Sun Is In The North' might be emphasised somehow in emotion with the inclusion of some Vai- or Satriani-style melodic lead guitar work.

In truth, however, 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky' simply doesn't need this. Sure, the addition of vocal or intricate guitar melodies would add a new dimension to the mix and certainly evolve the music somehow, but it most definitely doesn't feel like it's required. What is presented here is a complete, ambient experience that is to be enjoyed as a full entity. Individual tracks certainly stand out, however I feel that 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky' speaks best as a musical body when listened to from start to finish, as one complete journey.

The ebb and flow of each track's emotion and feel paints a wonderful and kinetic musical experience that is truly alive and a pleasure to experience, weaving through open and dreamy chord progressions right into some truly broad and intense sections of an aggressive value, and everything in between.

There's something for everyone here, and any Rock fans will take to 'Above The Earth, Below The Sky' with remarkable ease. A must-have for any fan of Prog-Rock, Post-Rock and Zombie flicks.

1. From Roots to Needles
2. What's In The Ground Belongs To You
3. Terra Incognita
4. Above The Earth
5. Below The Sky
6. The Sun Is In The North
7. Thirty-Six Silos
8. The Flames of Herostratus
9. Rebuilding The Temple Of Artemis
10. Deus Ex Machina

All of them.

The soundtrack to an edgy, tense thriller movie. Would fit well amongst most ambient rock playlists.

Click here for the review of 'Red Forest'...




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