Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
A meshing of sandy, dustbowl guitar and breathy speech greets the listener as Point of Impact starts. Though we are seamlessly launched into a more electronic experience, Opening Up keeps a gravelly euphoria. Spectral choirs are blown towards us on a cool, desert wind. Mirage melodies fall from above, glittering in the air like vapour. Guitars noodle solemnly in the swirl of choral cadences, and a deep voice pushes through this maelstrom confidently, controlling the track to a certain extent. Though giving an indication of the sound to come is fairly difficult due to the album’s crowded, holographic style, the opener does indicate a certain methodology that reversed reference will continue to undertake, as well as the artist’s penchant for the nacreous, emotive sounds of noughties R&B that will be revisited throughout.
Powerful kick drums supercharge short, sharp samples in a decidedly modern, bubblegum dance style on Retina Binge. This does not last long, as we find ourselves watching Shontelle’s T-Shirt draping itself over a patient, hyperemotional rhythm. reversed reference crystallises the R&B hit’s hook, dressing it with gorgeous electronic synth augmentation. From here, Jessie J wanders too close to the excitable eye of the artist and gets swallowed into the track for a second, super-feelgood breakdown. There is so much that could be written about factions of modern electronic music and how much inspiration they garnered from post-2000’s R&B, but here the artist displays it perfectly in audio form.
You in Mind booms with genre-bending brilliance. The slap-bass, stuttered vocal samples and jagged percussion all seem to fly in from totally different eras. The momentum is certainly one of driving determination at the start, a move from clattering percussion to uplifting synthwave sprays images of Grand Theft Auto in front of the listener. The comparison feels apt as the artist’s time-jumping feels very inspired by the pastiches of the video game brand. We move from a chaotic sound like that of downtown Los Santos, to a cool, neon Vice City feeling.
A marching infectious dance rhythm meets with a pop/disco piano sequence as reversed reference punches in BRUNOMARSDAFTPUNK into an AI-music generator. It is not long before saccharine voices are swarming over each other, galvanised by the heavy electronic synth melody. It feels a miracle that Back Home doesn’t career off into broken digital chaos as the artist switches the sound so rapidly at points, wrongfooting the listener in the most enjoyable of ways as we step on jagged fragments of lovingly-collaged music.
The titular track slams down a cacophonous sample beat that transports right into the sweaty, epicentre of the city. The wavering organ keys like the unbroken lines of light as we speed through the metropolis; the heavy, dissonant sounds rattling the track like the doors of each club we stumble past. Even the acid house synth starts to make you feel a little woozy. At the midway point our trajectory recalibrates entirely, as we move slowly through warm, muffled vocal samples. As the beat is released, the feeling is one of positivity. Glittering piano and soulful vocals cushion us as the beat repeatedly wipes out everything around us with its heavy kick. Rough euphoria greets us at the end, the melody glitching and percussion sounding distant, like we have been pushed outside of the boundaries of reversed reference's carefully constructed world.
Rough, clattering cymbals and snares fire out of a slowly forming blob of sound on Easy to See. The rhythm is engaging, as it is hard to tell whether it is an amalgamation of a multitude of samples or simply one that has been heavily manipulated. It isn’t long before we are blasted by a commanding synth bass and blindsided by swiping percussion and disembodied vocal samples. There is a classic electro feel to it, galvanised by a solid bassline, though the artist does keep things fresh with sporadic, uncontrollable percussion.
Swirling percussion envelops Ne-Yo as he croons on Negative Space. Again, the uprooting of the sample is genius. The beckoning ‘come closer’ repeated, building its hypnotic intensity into the chorus breakdown. The result is a haunting track, still harbouring fragments of R&B tunefulness.
Lightning Time harnesses that cheesy, post-noughties dance energy, smudging it a little as synthetic cymbals glide over the plodding trumpet-led instrumentation. Rihanna’s familiar cadences are mopped up as well. In fleeting moments, it feels as if we are listening to retrospective pop mix, like something you’d find on the second disc of a glossy commercial music compilation.
The mood is brought down to a sultry, slower place as reversed reference concludes proceedings. Take Me has a fiery, feelgood energy to it. Utilising the reggae rendition of Al Green’s Here I Am (Come and Take Me) to both instil an upbeat aura, and to solidify the debt owed to those heady days of iTunes library scrolling.
reversed reference's compositional crafting is really a highlight of Point of Impact. The precision with which the artist utilises the source material shows a real adoration for music in general. What stands out most, however, is the album’s elegiacal nature. It is an ode to that post-noughties, MP3 download era. Point of Impact shows us an iTunes library being ground into a soft, amorphous pulp of pop and R&B.