HELD BY TREES – Mysterium

Tweed Jacket Music 2021

Phantasm and conundrum: veterans of chill form an artistic alliance to give substance to ghostly visions and capture the essence of life.

HELD BY TREES –
Mysterium

At which point economic playing turns into minimalism without losing its quality yet making each note count and create suspense or tension, if not gravity? Ask this bunch of grizzled performers and listen to their instruments do the talking on wordless pieces that herald the advent of a new ensemble poised to deliver a full-length record in the wake of the two single numbers. Of course, magnificent understatement isn’t the only common denominator for the legendary Eric Bibb, Robbie McIntosh and David Knopfler and the guitarists’ less famous, if undeniably experienced, colleagues, but the project’s mastermind, the axe-wielding composer and producer David Joseph, found it the principal sonic substance his music required.

And the substance might be what’s called mysterium that became the title of the team’s first cut: a captivating ballad floating into focus on the subtle ripple of Laurence Pendrous’ piano and Martin Ditcham’s percussion before a sparse six-string weave takes the shape of a crashing wave which will lead the listener into a worried reverie and embroider the emerging image with nuance and detail, as the shadow of folk and blues enter the frame and let Gary Alesbrook’s spectral trumpet and Mike Smith’s ivories unfold a magic panorama in the background. There’s much more drama to “In The Trees” whose vibrant arrangement may swell when Ben Taylor’s double bass is plucked, yet the tune’s twang and backbeat are unanchored once violin, viola and cello elevate the picture with a delicate touch, while the sounds of woodwind and fingers sliding over fretboard render the result arrestingly human.

Had the veterans added more beauty to the mix, it could have been unbearable – which is why the latter track’s ambient version goes elsewhere; as it is, their oeuvre feels simply fantastic.

*****

November 2, 2021

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