Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
Memory can be a powerful thing; it allows us to look back across our lives and revisit the good, learn from the bad and gain new insight from the most inconsequential interaction. It can also be tricky, and the further back something is, the more fuzzy and dreamlike it can often become. Jeff T Byrd plays with this concept excellently, combining their field recordings with instruments and tapes their father made in order to create this incredible dreamlike journey through their life and memories.
Things open with Looking For a Man, and the listener is immediately greeted by that familiar whine of tape. Soon a singing man enters the fray, but he soon disappears, leaving behind the ambient sounds of a summer night, bugs, a train in the distance, and the sounds of nature. Somewhere a woman starts to sing, though her voice quickly disappears and reverberates until it is no more. There's a subtle dripping sound that permeates a lot of the track. As things continue, a dreamlike synth starts to become audible underneath it all, sirens come and go, and the sounds of train crossing and a jazzy parade also drift in and out like half-remembered memories popping up as you try to drift off for the night.
Holy Cross is next and begins with this rhythmic pumping sound that becomes more percussive as time goes on. It is quickly joined by a strange siren that builds and builds, becoming shriller and slightly distorted before giving way to a peculiar rhythmic music from what could be a piano. This rhythm soon becomes the backbone of a piece featuring all kinds of sounds strewn about the audio field before it fades out, leaving the listener with these confusing, alien drones and bleeps. The track ends with a dreamy reverb-drenched piano sample that lingers like those fleeting memories of last night's dreams.
An out-of-tune piano and a sorrowful saxophone open Panasonic. They are not alone for long as they are soon joined by a sample of a man talking about his company's work; they make leather goods. Multiple voices are present, another man and a woman, but their conversations' contents are unknown. The familiar drumming of a street performer makes a brief appearance before the tone shifts to the talk of cold war spy satellites. The samples continue their strange dance, becoming less audible as the track goes; soon, the rain begins and occasionally a child's voice. There is something eerie about this soundscape. Soon the sounds of thunder mix with electronic toys. Eventually, it all fades, and all that is left is the storm.
Things take a very different tone with the next track, Dad's Porn. The track opens with some quintessentially 80's synth before things start to switch gears and the titular porn samples begin. The samples start to overlap, which, combined with some added distortion, leads to a genuinely unsettling experience. Things continue to get more tense as the voices begin to take on demonic energy, which creates a truly horrific soundscape when combined with the sexualised breathing of the adult samples. Soon enough, these sounds echo off into nothing, as all dreams tend to.
Goodwater, Alabama 1982 brings a more subtly distorted and detuned piano alongside an unfamiliar sound that almost feels like it has been reversed. Soon enough, something rhythmic comes and goes from the audio landscape; it seems to venture around the stereo field before disappearing again. Later a different rhythmic sound joins, like the sound of an unbalanced washing machine rocking away in another room. Static drenched radio voices try to enter this sound environment, but they quickly disappear, taking that rhythmic banging with them. Soon a more booming sound begins; it sounds like it's getting closer and manages to create this anxious tension in the piece that lingers long after that booming stops, though it doesn't stop for long.
The dreamlike atmosphere of the titular track Nighty Night closes the record. It opens with soft synths and half-remembered conversations before more sinister screeching sounds join the fray. A variety of conversations encircle the listener as the soundscape alternates between dreamlike and nightmarish before the screeching sounds return, accompanied by something more metallic, signalling a commitment to this realm of nightmares. Some more recognisable synth sounds try to keep the nightmares at bay, but strange alien noises soon overpower them. The listener slowly drifts through these memories, trying to find something substantial to grasp. There are sounds of dishes being stacked like a restaurant being cleaned or the remnants of a dinner party being put away, but these fleeting images don't offer enough to latch onto. The track ends with the phrase Nighty Night Jeffery, bringing the whole release full circle, readying the listener to revisit this dreamlike release.
Memories mean a lot to people, significant events, or meaningless interactions; they are often all more important than we give them credit for. It is impossible to tell how much of this release is from its creators' personal experiences, but frankly, that's not really important. This project effortlessly inhabits the realm between dreams and memory, making it something that everyone should take the time to experience.