Friday, June 25, 2010
Album review: Through the Trees by Ishi
The album feels like two different albums: The first half is the Ishi you see live at the club, and the second half is music for the morning after.
DALLAS It feels like Ishi came out of nowhere. The Dallas-based dance-pop band has vaulted to the top of the local music food chain, winning radio contests, legitimately vying for a spot at Bonnaroo, and becoming a huge local concert draw – all seemingly overnight. But they’ve actually been honing their sound for a couple of years now, working over John Mudd’s folk songs with Brad Dale’s programming, eventually creating what they call “electro-folk.” Their debut album Through the Trees shows the still-ripening fruits of those efforts.
“Don’t let go of who you are, you came too far” singer Mudd implores on the album’s first track, “Our Time,” doing his best The Sea and Cake impression. The band holds true to the sentiment, seemingly committed to bringing in Mudd’s folk music to mate with their dance-y electronica, which for the first few songs just means that there’s some acoustic guitar in the mix. Multi-instrumentalist Dale has said that he wanted to mash-up “Kraftwerk beats with folky harmonies,” and he could have easily mentioned early Depeche Mode and Postal Service as well, especially on songs like “Exhale” and “New York Charm.”
Tracklist:01 Our Time
02 Come Closer
03 Pastel Lights
05 Shake Your Dandelion
06 Join Us
07 New York Charm
08 All I Want
09 Turn Away
10 Through the Trees
11 Make It
12 Make Believe
While much of the music is ready for the dance floor, the folky influence tends to hold back the energy and tempos, making some tracks calmer and more contemplative. Perhaps they’re still too afraid to go too far in one direction. But then, there are songs like “Come Closer” that are more interested in the lusty bedroom escapades after leaving the dance club.
The folk influence really takes over toward the end of the album, as the acoustic guitar comes more to the forefront and the beats retreat. In fact, “Through the Trees” feels like two different albums: The first half is the Ishi you see live at the club, and the second half is music for the morning after. As it progresses, Through the Trees starts to sound more like David Bazan’s Headphones project instead dance music, and they come closest to realizing a full blend of folk and electronica on the final few tracks, and move further away from a party-inducing dance group. But, the album is actually more interesting as a result, if a little too inconsistent.
“Through the Trees” is a solid debut for a band on the rise, and it gives hints to the fuss surrounding their live shows. But, it’s not full representation of that band as their self-described “electro-folk” materializes mostly as either “electro” or “folk.” When they figure out how to fully meld their two halves together, they’ll be dangerous. In the meantime, a solid debut is satisfying enough.
To see a video of new song "Pastel Lights," click here.
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