Strip prog

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The Blue Trees is supposed to be an in-between record for the band that most recently unleashed the sprawling, brilliantly playful neo-prog album Spanish Dance Troupe. Apparently, no one told them that even when you strip away all the sonic studio trickery and sound plundering, great songs are still great songs. So what was supposed to be a stopgap (all-acoustic songs that Gorky’s had been playing as a sort of opening set for itself) turns out to be an insight into the songwriting prowess of one of the finest post-Britpop musical collectives and a deceptively layered work of chilled-out lo-fi goodness. Oops.

In Beatles parlance, The Blue Trees is a George record with Paul ascending. But there are better comparisons: If XTC’s monumental pop album-as-ode to nature’s joys, Skylarking was a novel, The Blue Trees is a short story that captures the same heart, soul and wistful-blissful-nostalgic emotional soup in half the time (in more impressionistic gestures).

Gorky’s more precious contemporaries may be content to take a cloistered, bedroom approach to appropriating the pop music of Nick Drake (Belle and/or Sebastian, please stand up). But this quintet makes the great leap forward into the great outdoors with pastoral, ’round-the-campfire chamber orchestrations of meditations on, partly at least, what Jonathan Richman once called “That Summer Feeling.”

Once their prog-rock ambition and tendency toward goofy fun got the best of ’em (and the best of me on more than one occasion). The Blue Trees now finds the boys (and girl) willfully limiting their tricks and toys and creating all the more evocative, impressionistic, fully formed works of acoustic beauty for their efforts.

All comparisons aside, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci has created a lovely record that allows the band to take its own idiosyncratic course. You don’t have to look back to the future.

E-mail Chris Handyside at [email protected].

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