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And Also The Trees
Evi Vine
The Luminaire, London
Sunday December 7 2008

A remarkably well-behaved audience has gathered in this upstairs room in Kilburn tonight. And Also The Trees, it seems, are a band one appreciates in a suitably restrained manner, rather than rock 'n' roll wild men who inspire rampant debauchery. And perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at that. After all, this is the band that put the pastoral into post-punk.

Evi VineFormed in 1979 - post-punk's year zero - in the village of Inkberrow, Worcestershire, And Also The Trees were always the odd ones out among the dishevelled urban urchins and disaffected suburban art-rebels that populated, and to a great extent defined, early eighties alternative music. If anything, And Also The Trees could have been the serious elder brothers of those mischevious surrealists (and fellow Worcestershire post-punks) The Dancing Did.

The atmospheric, poetic aesthetic of the band made them stand out from the crowd then, and - thirty years and twelve albums later - it still does today. That's what has drawn this well-behaved crowd to Kilburn tonight, so let's politely ease our way to the front - no elbows, please, it's not that sort of a gig - and join the throng.

The usual function of a support band at a gig is to warm the crowd up for the headliners. Well, it appears that Evi Vine has no truck with usual functions. She cools things down with a set of amiable ambience, crooning her neatly and sweetly ethereal songs amid a lush musical backing that includes her own plangent guitar, two (count 'em, two) cellos, restrained drums and a careful, precise, bass guitar.

It's nice - but, as I always say in these situations, nice isn't enough. I wait for Evi Vine to show a little steel beneath the filigree and shadow, but although her between-song remarks are self-deprecating and witty, the songs themselves tend to blur into a comforting porridge of easy listening. I suspect that Evi Vine does have an edge, concealed somewhere underneath the musical velvet - after all, she cites Nine Inch Nails as an influence - but tonight things never quite get beyond pleasantly croonsome.

And Also The Trees figured out how to show a little edge, while never descending into crass rockisms, many years ago. And they certainly know how to do presence, too. Vocalist Simon Huw Jones is dressed like a defrocked eighteenth century parson, his gaze alternately unnervingly keen, as if he's staring into other worlds, or downcast and introsapective, as if burdened by this world. He dominates the stage, part troubadour, part shaman.

He's flanked by guitarist Justin Jones, an intense figure, striking at his instrument with a panache that gives the band just the right touch of showbiz. And the music - ah, now I'm trying not to use the term 'folk' here, or, worse still, 'folk-rock', because I wouldn't want to give the impression that And Also The And Also The TreesTrees are some kind of Marillion-style melodrama-merchants. There's an economy, an austerity, to And Also The Trees, which roots them as firmly in the post-punk period, just as their pastoralism roots them in the English countryside.

The music billows like cumulus over Kinver Edge, ebbing and flowing like the tide in the Severn estuary. It claws up to crescendos, then drops back to a sepulchral rumble. The slow-burning epic that is 'The Legend Of Mucklow' is a veritable concerto of dynamics - and more or less provides an all-purpose guide to What And Also The Trees Do in one song.

The band range over their repertoire like buzzards over summer meadows, swooping here on an old song - 'Suffering Of The Stream', 'A Room Lives In Lucy' - there on a new - 'The Untangled Man', 'He Walked Through The Dew'. And even if you've never heard a note of And Also The Trees' music, there's surely something about those song titles that drop a hint that this band is not exactly soundtracking the gritty urbanism of today.

Here in an upstairs room in north London - as gritty and urban an environment as you could ever find - bathed in the wan glow of LED floor lights, And Also The Trees should be awkwardly incongruous. But, somehow, they're not. They create their own landscape, and take us with them as they stroll and stalk through it.

 

 


Essential links:

And Also The Trees: Website | MySpace
Evi Vine: Website | MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find And Also The Trees by name here.

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