Under The Shady Tree

By Elizabeth Wells

A potentially interesting release, Under the Shady Tree is Chris White’s brainchild, and joins the ranks of recent releases such as Murcof’s Martes album, which splices classical and jazz genres with staccato, glitchy electronica. Unfortunately in its similarity in structure and instrumentation to this forebear, White also loses by comparison; the resonance is at times too strong to see past the similarities to where White treads a different path. However, with some persistence, White’s own hand begins to make itself known.

The album opens with glitchy breakbeats that are soon joined by classical strains of cello, piano and a soprano singing an aria. On Sat Nam uneasy and sometimes staccato instrumentation clashes against fragmented electronics, and vocals again become the order of the day in the sample of plainsong on Wolfhour. Although this is perhaps the most beautiful and haunting of White’s tunes, its first half is also perhaps the most indebted to Murcof’s method of musical arrangement. It is only when White goes off on more idiosyncratic, freeform territory (as on the second half of Wolfhour, which metamorphoses into a different track entirely) that the music truly comes into its own. Lazy twanging guitars, jazz hooks and funky touches all add flavour to an otherwise austere mix. On tracks such as Fragments, the music fulfils its promise and delivers cool loping rhythms tempered with interesting abstract improvisation.
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