Rock and Reprise.net
When I started listening to Trees On Fire's two three-song EPs, Organica Volume 1 and Organica Volume Two, I was sure I would be writing about Progrock, music evolved out of the seeds of the many European bands of the late sixties and early seventies like Genesis, Yes and Van der Graaf Generator. My baptism by fire had come from Joia Wood's 2007 album, Live From the Gravity Lounge. The Trees were the backing band and the combination of sounds, Wood's folk rock and the Trees Progrock, grabbed me by the 'nads, especially on Lullaby, a space/folk/rock conglomeration which sounded not unlike Van der Graaf with maybe Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span) on voice. (Read my review) There was something in the mesh, possibly Rob Mezzanotte's very David Jackson-like saxophone work, which led Wood and band down a very tricky slope and they negotiated it beautifully.
So when I received my copies of 'The Organicas' and upon listening the time travel did not happen, I was left scratching my head and eventually ended up redefining my whole definition of the Progrock genre. To my ears, I guess, if the music does not closely mirror that magic period of the High Tide's and the Van der Graaf's and the Amon Duul's, it just doesn't qualify and as much as it did on Lullaby, it does not on 'The Organicas'.
What it does qualify for is an Adventure In Music award. Trees On Fire plays the new Progrock, music taken into the 21st Century and not as limited as the Progrock of the past. They borrow from an expanded list of genres--- not just classical and the very edges of jazz and traditional and folk and gypsy and what have you. Their list is a list of musical experience and between them, they have a lot of it.
Though it is hard to describe, it is atmospheric in places (Birds and the Bees) and Third World in others (Yorke In Cuba). They can play upbeat Pop, though obviously of their own making (Take a Seat and Just Because) and rely on changing rhythms and full-on harmony vocals not unlike early Ambrosia and bands of that ilk. Sometimes they present the music simply but are really at their best when layering voices and instruments.
And there is a message. These guys are as green as they come. Global warming? Pollution? Corporate greed? Don't get these guys started. They live in Charlottesville VA and are watching, up close, what the environmentalists call 'mountaintop mining' (though I am sure the politicians who back such devastation have other more public-related words for it). Mines normally conjure up pictures of mine shafts, elevators, hard hats. Well, the hard hats are there, but essentially the shafts are toast. These clowns just move in, blow the top off of a mountain and cart the good stuff away, that 'good stuff' being coal. Coal? When did we travel back to the 1920s? When money took over. And if you think it hasn't, take a trip through West Virginia and see if you can find those mountains they used to advertise. A lot of them are gone. More are scheduled to leave. Don't like it? Neither does Trees On Fire and they let you know it--- through their music and through their actions. They are, in fact, the focus of a short film clip about both and you can watch it here. If you care, a click and a few minutes won't hurt you. If you don't, well, the future is evidently not important.
Lives of bands vary greatly in this day and age. Trees On Fire have been spreading the message and their music for four years and have no intention of slowing down. In fact, they are gearing up because even as the music progresses, there is work to be done. Five good friends. Five excellent musicians. One important band. This is what music can sometimes be. Where these guys are, it still is. Is it any wonder I think one of the truly important hubs of today's music is Charlottesville? Support these guys. And get involved.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.
Supporting the Indies Since 1969