Skeleton Trees Structure 24 – Opus 1
4.0 out of 5
By Ted Rogen
Skeleton Trees is a self-described dark wave band hailing from Montreal, Canada. The band originally formed in 2007 and went through a number of lineup changes before getting settled. Currently the band consists of Alice Morrison on vocals, J. Bannon on electric guitar, keyboard and programming, Jean-David Brouillette on electric bass and Ian D’Amours on drums. Over a two-year period Skeleton Trees have been working on Structure 24. The project grew and grew and eventually they had 24 songs. They made a good logical decision to break the album in two pieces called Opus 1 and Opus 2. I had the pleasure of listening to Opus 1, which combines dark textures and tones not unlike that of a band like Portishead or even Massive Attack.
Over the course of the 12 songs they sometimes sound like a couple of people playing in a room together and other times sound like more than the sum of their parts. They utilize dark-sounding lead synths, distorted bass, organic drums and a variety of other elements to make music that sounds dark but not depressing. It’s a dark energy that feels like you can have fun observing it while not having to actually experience it. It’s kind of like the difference between someone watching a violent movie and enjoying it compared to actually being in a gunfight. What’s most unique about the album is that they chose to sing some of it in French and some in English. While they aren’t the first band to do this it adds some diversity to the album and it didn’t take away anything from the music that I don’t understand French.
The album starts off with the excellent “Ensorcelé,” which creates a vast circus of sounds that build but is ultimately carried by the vocal performance of Morrison. They go out of their way to make interesting textures such as combining ethereal background vocals with a mixture of synths that make a very tantalizing concoction of sounds. “Exhibition” constructs an industrial type electronic beat that drives a factory of sounds. The distorted tones are just dirty enough to give a dark tone but don’t overwhelm the music.
One of the highlights of the album is “L’épave des Songes,” which treats the vocals with additional saturation and combines complicated percussive pattern with heavily distorted bass.Despite their dark atmosphere some of the songs feel quite poppy, even peppy, such as the excellent “At Dawn” which sounds like a combination between Asobi Seksu and Portishead. Opus 1 offers a lot of sounds listeners can immerse themselves in, well-written songs and some very solid vocal performances. If you are a fan of Darkwave this should be a no brainer.
Category: Goth / Ambient
Album: Season of Mists
Blurb: Skeleton Trees’ debut album is one no fan of ethereal gothic music should be without.
Formed in 2007, Skeleton Trees is a band from Montreal, Canada that explores some unique territory on the debut album, Seasons of Mists. Composed primarily of Alice Morrison, Jay Bannon, Jean-David Brouillette, and Ian D’Amours, Skeleton Trees have orchestrated a wonderfully beautiful and subdued record that takes a gentle and soothing approach to thematically dark music.
Seasons of Mists begins with the mostly instrumental “Intro (Whispers in the Wind),” but the real fun begins with “The Obscuration of Dreams;” a track that fuses a number of different styles – you can hear everything from neo-folk to chamber music elements in this track and much of the record for that matter. Morrison’s vocal prowess is also in top form on this record, breathing a ghostly life into each and every song. Her vocal and lyrical style imbues the record with a significant amount of emotional weight. Flawlessly produced and mixed, you can hear every nuance of each instrument and each track flows seamlessly into the next.
Seasons of Mists is not for the attention challenged, however. While the band achieves plateaus of higher energy, it often takes time for the band to build up to them. Frequently, the record’s pace is consistently slow and steady with many of the tracks reaching upwards of 10 minutes long. As overly long songs can be a deterrent for some, it should be mentioned the fact that the vast majority of the instruments played on this record are of the organic variety, with synthetic elements taking a distant second. An incredible amount of musicianship went into this record.
For a first release, the amount of effort that went into Seasons of Mist is fairly surprising. Skeleton Trees went to great lengths to produce a work that is intricate as it is layered, as well as giving the album a very polished presentation with its artwork and packaging. My guess is we’ll be hearing plenty more from this band in the years to come.
If the goal of a band is described as “composing a soundtrack for the mind and to forge a unique universe in which all dreams can resonate” then you immediately know that you are not dealing with a band interested in creating some poppy melodies.
Not that there’s no pop or melody involved in this Canadian three-piece band but they seek their solace in the dark-wave world where experimental neo-classical and moody dark-wavepop goes hand in hand with each other.
The ethereal voice is delivered by Alice Morrison and reminded us a bit of Miranda Sex Garden, or perhaps we’re saying this because of those similar violins. Saying that “Seasons Of Mist” belongs to the goth section is one point of view, as it could have easily been released on, say, Projekt Records but at the same time their songs contain an epic feel that is reminiscent to the one you only find with prog-rock releases. Some will say it’s boring, whereas others will be blinded by its beauty. Such things do depend on your taste. But still, we can definitely assure you that this fine self released album containing ten songs will be loved by anyone who’s into quality ethereal darkwave.
Title: Season of Mists
Label: Les Productions Kaivalya
Rated: 4 Stars (out of 5)
‘Season of Mists,’ Skeleton Trees’ debut effort, is a hauntingly beautiful venture into dreamland. Their goal with this concept album was to “compose a soundtrack for the mind and to forge a unique universe in which all dreams can resonate’ and I think they achieved that in several ways. For one, the vast majority of the record is extremely low key (and low tempo) and filled with beautifully toned synths, ambience and just HAUNTINGLY beautiful vocals (courtesy of Alice Morrison’s not only beautiful voice, but alluring French accent) and melodies interspersed with the occasional dialogue sample and contrasting, upbeat (and at times almost carnevallian) runs that more often than not, work. There are many influences notably at work here: the Beatles (think Harrison-esque harpsichord work and Lennon’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ evident in the eerie ‘Inside Her Cave’), a variety of late 70’s to early 80’s goth and post-punk bands, just a HINT of Nine Inch Nails (specifically the melody in the ending of ‘Lady of the Snow’) and even a moment of Jack Off Jill, sans the inherently vulgar subject matter (though I imagine this one is more coincidence than influence) and too many more to mention. The only pitfalls are the drums on occasion can verge on clumsy, and the bass seemed a bit lackadaisical, at times being noticeably off, and finding its way to notes that can be just cringe inspiring, which is much more obvious at points in or after ‘Shadows’ at which point the album seems to become just ever so slightly disjointed, but pulls itself back together by the end. But don’t let the sound of those points fool you, it’s a great cd, and I’m very much looking forward to their upcoming sophomore release tentatively titled ‘Between the Floor and the Downstairs Ceiling’.
This project is formed by a group of talented musicians hailing from Montreal, Quebec. Together they’ve pulled together this album, their debut work featuring ten extended tracks. It all comes packaged in a simple jewel case but the booklet contains all the lyrics, some artwork and credits. All together it’s a nice package giving the appropriate impression of the moods portrayed through the music.
The album is arranged such that for the most part all of the compositions blend together so you can’t really tell when one piece ends and the other begins. Also, many of the tracks are quite long, some well over eight and even ten minutes. With these pieces this long, within one song we end up with various distinct movements, some slow and haunting, others more upbeat and moving. The range of styles for the most part come together well and make the album very enjoyable depending on your mood. Parts of some of the tracks sound very much like they’re out of a haunted movie or video game soundtrack with ambient and psychedelic elements blended, while others are quite intelligent, yet dreamy ethereal to create some beautiful soundscapes.
With the way the tracks all blend and length and dynamic compositions, it’s hard to really pick favorites, you almost end up just picking out parts of individual pieces as favorites. “The Obscuration of Dreams” picks up nicely about 45 seconds into the song with xylophone and strings looped and slowly building with haunting vocals carrying over from the “Intro” until the smooth vocals pick up. At this point the music also comes to a climax with guitars and percussion forming a solid goth foundation which we hear on occasion on other pieces as well. “A Tear in the Fabric of Time” is another long track that has some favorite excerpts. The first half is a dreamy, haunting ambient and ethereal piece which wanders along in a dream-like state. The latter half includes a solid bassline and various layered synths and guitars with a subtle, moving beat for a nice mid-tempo piece. “Her Home in Every Mirror” is probably my favorite overall selection with harpsichord for more of a classical sound that slowly builds up to include more of that haunting violin and other spellbinding elements to carry along the siren-like vocals. There are other bits and pieces of other tracks that stand out as more ethereal pieces such as in the long track “Shadows” or a little later in “Lady of the Snow”. However, the haunting, scary, almost psychedelic nature of other pieces tend to be a bit overwhelming depending on the listener’s mood.
Overall it comes together nicely, it’s definitely very haunting, something that works very well for playing in cemeteries or haunted houses, maybe really scare some kids around Halloween time at night. Those elements can be fun in their own time, but overall I think the ethereal goth foundation is what carries this album and really makes it worth listening to.