Come Play the Trees is Snapped Ankles‘ first album, but they’ve been making something of a stir for a while now with their feral, pagan, noise-inflected post punk. The opening title track plays up to this, all circular percussion and wailing and chanting. ‘Hanging with the Moon’ offers a much more focussed sound, the pops and clicks of a drum machine leading into a fuzzy synth noises and more nonsense lyrics. The swirling psychadelic patterns of the song build to a heady cloud of sound, their homemade “log synths” swathing everything in a weird low bit rate crunch and a springy reverb.
It works best when they lock into a groove. ‘I Want My Minutes Back’ is a laser-guided bassline surrounded by those ricocheting synths and various “whoo-hoo”s and provides the perfect build up into the album’s twin centre pieces. ‘Johnny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin’ begins with a distorted voice intoning the song’s title over Can-style bleeps, before launching into the most krautrock moment of the album. At 8:16, the band don’t let up, even when the song bursts into trippy psych after three minutes of locked bass, drum and synth riffing and yelling. After five minutes it feels like the song has run out of steam, only for it to burble away as an almost ambient version of itself. The bleepy synth returns, bringing with it a hazy, soaring lead line and that relentless bass causes the whole thing to burst back into life again. At almost of fifth the length of the entire album it should be too much, but instead it defines the record. It’s followed by ‘Let’s Revel’ which spends its first half clouded in sweet-smelling smoke. The lyrics “It’s getting harder to be in control/It’s getting harder to be on the dole” are recited over and over, until the conclusion is reached: “Let’s revel!”. This sparks into the sort of noise-pop Holy Fuck do best, tripping over itself and spiralling joyously.
The second half of the album suffers in comparison to the first. ‘Tuesday Makes Me Cry’ is a little too straightforward. ‘The Invisible Real That Hurts’ plods a little until the circuit-noise synths of the wordless chorus fizz away before giving way to laments about “ubiquitous Swedish furniture” but the second half of the record struggles to build into anything really solid. What it does is demonstrate a band full of ideas, proudly DIY and defiantly experimental. The hazy outro brings the whole album back to where we began, in a weird forest populated with machines of Snapped Ankles’ making. Come Play the Trees is certainly one of the weirder debut albums of the year but probably one of the most interesting.
Come Play the Trees is out now.