Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
Though the 22-track mmx-mmxx spans a whole 10 years of activity from Belgian musician autumna, there is a certain strand of feeling that finds its way through the entirety. This strand is whittled down to a string-thin vein at some points, and bolsters up to be arterial and more explicitly in others. This is a sense of tranquility, a feeling of peacefulness. In the first few tracks, this is communicated through that familiar Boards of Canada-esque style. Oddly timed warbling synths, spaced out and sometimes manipulated percussive noises. The retrospective’s opener Goliath revels in this feeling. The slow delivery of laboured, robotic spoken samples becomes hypnotic. One can almost imagine this huge entity slowly making its way across a sprawling landscape.
Like Love (Asking Directions Home) takes a different route, but still finds its way to this same peacefulness. Wheeling arpeggiations pull into major and minor territory with little warning. The glittering collection of notes start off life as quaint and harmless, but as the song proceeds they fall further into explicitly emotional patterns and sequences. By the end, the listener has had this incredibly moving experience, with little other than twinkly electronic patterns guiding their feelings. This solemnity evaporates as we move into Eroiyu, that shows us a soulless and unending industrial scene, with clattering gates and faraway infernos.
Soul Dirt has a similar metallic energy, with a little more organic melodiousness worked into it. Sharp strings reach out into a grey scene, as colour begins to spread through the vision from numb pad sounds. Without much warning, the artist has ventured into more abstract territory. Finding coarse and unpredictable sounds and rhythms in the realms of the organic and recorded rather than the synthesised.
Even as things get dissonant, the sounds feel calm and calculated. They find a voice in a wide open space, and often this accentuates their more tuneful qualities over anything else. Skinny Pieces is a fine example of this, what sounds at first like random bursts of radio frequencies are worked into a cold sequence of notes all with this backdrop of unforgiving mechanised noise.
There are sharp contrasts in the collection. For instance, Last Dance Kid offers this pained semi-house sensibility to it. Its tear-stained male vocal samples whip out suddenly, their dulcet tones meeting gentle clicking and kicking as a gentle rhythm is sustained and built slowly. autumna switches things up straight after with the wonderfully named California Droning. Devoid of any rhythm, the listener is left with these great unending limbs of sound. The narrative of the track is a similarly slow build, but adopts a completely different style. The consistency of the artist’s talent is as such that these could’ve been made 10 years apart or 10 days.
Enshrined within every one of the tracks on this collection is this desire for slow, meditative instrumentation. Both melody and dissonant noise alike find themselves drenched in reverb, a feeling of solitary austere communicated through them. mmx-mmxx provides an insight into the work of a brilliant artist, through a range of different genres that are all performed with an admirable articulation and an obvious passion for music making in general.