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Held By Trees – Solace (Tweed Jacket Music)

What was it I learned today, that “Musicians to Start Paying For Using Natural Sounds: Why Don’t We Pay Nature a Royalty?”

It’s a no-brainer if you think about it, almost as if Mother Nature is in the studio when recording certain effects drawn from the natural environment. Hit play on this album and you’ll hear the chirping of birds, alongside the crisp notes played on a piano in the first track ‘Next to Silence’. The feel of this is beautiful and got me thinking about another artist who made music in a similar vein, this being the late Mark Hollis of Talk Talk and boy, do we miss Mark. Here it’s almost as if he has just walked into the room. But this is not the resurrection of this god of the ambient, but another artist entirely, as it’s Held By Trees, as if this connection to nature wasn’t enough.

Being asked to cover this band’s debut Solace, I thought I’d better listen to the album to get a feel for what I was letting myself in for, before confirming my involvement, and much to my delight I discovered I would be walking on safe ground. This was music indeed bearing the feel of Talk Talk, but rather than their earlier work, concentrates on their final two albums Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock. Okay, I thought, but wouldn’t this be like listening to a karaoke act, rather than the group themselves? The legacy the band left following their break up in 1991 was vast. This is an attempt to continue the work started by Hollis, it is said “even using some of the musicians who had played with Mark, to get it right”. Pressing play, it’s almost as if you’re looking those former artists plain in the face, the feel is so familiar. The natural sounds used, the beauty of its composition and the calm offered, all resonate. The second track ‘In the Trees’, with its deep bass, solid bass drum and constant run on the snare, is like catching a glimpse of Heaven. I’m smitten, but truth be told I had been from the very first track.

As the album plays through ‘Rain After Sun’, where quite understandably it starts with the patter-patter of rain falling, but also deep double bass notes, a cymbal, hi-hat and the rumble of thunder playing its part. Through ‘Wave Upon Wave’, shimmering on a thought of clear skies and fresh air as the storm passes, to ‘An Approach’, where creaking floorboards are heard and the opening of an instrument case suggesting the warmth of a grandfather offering up his treasured harmonium, later playing for the family. You will find the 6 tracks rush past, as you become lost in their illustration. To say faster than a speeding train would lose the gravity of this work, so perhaps a weightless cloud might be a better way to stake their claim. When you learn that a real tree will be planted for each copy this album sells, it becomes more than just music, and you could say it is literally – Held By Trees. The next track ‘The Tree of Life’ is welcomed into the branches with a soaring guitar solo, descending into one where strings are plucked, as we hear every note played, the strings almost hitting the frets, not forgetting the timing offered by the beat of the drum.

Held By Trees are a band performing original music, as said, influenced by Talk Talk’s final 2 albums, Mark Hollis’ solo self-titled work, as well as the music of Pink Floyd, Ryuichi Sakamoto, John Cage and Morton Feldman. Altogether music of quality and distinction, each of these elements playing their part, but never replicating the other’s compositions, so definitely not karaoke. If you like hearing music played in its rawest sense, the sliding of fingers across the strings of a guitar or bass, the breath as it breathes life into a wind instrument or the strike of a drum, then this is for you. Multi-instrumentalist David Joseph sits at the helm of this outfit, with some of music’s most respected musicians playing alongside. Although I say Joseph was at the helm, it’s important to note that in the credits of the album, he is just another name in the alphabetical listing of musicians, apart from a line saying who the album was written and produced by. It should be pointed out that this is not a solo project and each of the musicians played their part in creating this work. Like a book, this story develops the further you proceed, or to put it another way, is a vision created by David Joseph and friends. Friends like guitarist Robbie McIntosh, drummer and percussionist Martin Ditcham, bassist Simon Edwards, along with pianist Lawrence Pendrous and Andy Panayi on flute, and clarinet.

The penultimate track features the soft tones of ‘Mysterium’, which with the deft touch on piano by Pendrous, intertwines beautifully with the guitar McIntosh brings to the party. A simply sublime combination of notes that transports the listener into a paradise between the speakers. As if this wasn’t enough ‘The New Earth’ completes this exercise by remembering one of music’s most eloquent groups. Certainly, a legacy that Hollis, Webb and Harris would see as a fitting reminder of their Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock albums. Not the most commercial of works, but albums whose compositions reflect the world in which we’d wish to live. In the barest sense, each comprises 6 tracks and albums that revel in the listener taking the time to enjoy the music. Here without vocals, but with the music illustrating each track perfectly. The brightest star in the night sky, the most beautiful cloud on the horizon. Thank you, David Joseph and company, for remembering some of our most brilliant musicians and in doing so, being in their company!


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.