Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
Though the instrumentation feels a little frail at the start, the melody that plays is one of resounding warmth and welcome. Gradually this causes the contracted sounds to stretch and relax a bit, allowing for a more low-end sound to push through. A Sphere Made of Stevia begins the fifth and final instalment of the Elevator Relaxation Tapes. Whereas the first four were conceptualised as a breath of calm in a metal box amidst a complicated working day at Stevia Sphere HQ, this fifth one serves as a revisitation for the listener through the eyes of someone new. A late night exploration uncovers a tape addressed to the organisation's tireless workers, from the CEO. Though the story might sound a little bittersweet, there is a sense of joviality to the opener. It instils a real feeling that the EP will act as a celebration of the project as a whole. MIDI-saxophone glides seamlessly over the steady beat, even enticing some organic piano sounds at the mid-point and towards the end as well.
Any feeling of trepidation felt on the explorer’s part for sneaking a listen to the personal EP melts away through the sheer feel-good sound of the music. First Taste of Success sprays irresistible chords past quaint percussion, the hum of the notes creating a light and airy backdrop. A bell sound hops coolly, playing through a riff that pulls inspiration directly from muzak. From here we build up to a big finale, a synth trumpet erupting and inviting each part back in. Of course, this finale isn't built up too much, so as not to ruin the restricted ambience of the elevator experience. Stevia Sphere handles everything with a calming and corporate hand.
Years Spent in an Ice Cold Pool rings with a little more longing than the tracks that came before. An impassioned motif plays out on tiny starlight keys and, as the bass becomes a little more driving and consistent, the emotive part is taken over by a half-grainy, half-digitised lead. The track serves to tell a more rounded tale of the organisation; a story peppered with hardship and struggle as well as good times. The listener sees the CEO looking wistfully out of his unfathomably high penthouse suite, wondering if his ideas and strategies will garner a profit. Here we divert slightly from the elevator muzak sound, as Stevia Sphere asks the listener to step away from the comfort of the four walls and take a trip to a more existential place.
This theme of strife is augmented on Abandoned Project Ideas. A fractured guitar plays out a solemn sequence, ducking and weaving in and out of heady feedback. As the lower end takes more of a hold, the atmospheric guitar and keys duck down under the kick, resulting in a feeling of intensity which backs up the morose nature of the music. One can almost imagine the person that snuck into the abandoned offices listening as they are carried away from a gargantuan business district by some monorail system. Listening as their lip quivers slightly and they pay a solitary tribute to the now defunct organisation.
The entrancing sense of progression and success commandeers the nature of the EP once again on Reaching Higher Than I Dreamt of. A flute sound breathes ghostly iterations of itself around an echoing expanse, communicating sadness but with a renewed vigour and determination tinging it slightly. The track hits with poppy, almost R&B-inspired percussion, soft bass tones pushing through rhythmically. Theatrical hits and plucked strings trade prominence between each other before we move into a grainy breakdown. The wistful flute melody is a particularly crystallising moment on the EP, where it feels like we are watching the artist themselves, rather than the story they created. There is a beauty enshrined in the track that speaks to a more pure feeling than that of the overarching concept. This gives the track a comforting warmth, though it may be bittersweet in style.
This candid spirit is carried over and amplified as we find ourselves at the EP's final track – and the final leg of the explorer's journey home while listening to the stolen tape – the apt and tearjerking Thank You All So Much. Glassy chords begin to swirl, supported after a while by a chattering percussive sequence. The tape seems to skip of its own accord, buckling under the pressure of the ensuing catharsis, as afterwards a beautiful saxophone melody launches towards the listener. Starlight notes twinkle above everything else, shimmering with a fragile elegance. The track is awash with a glowing happiness. Though the doors of Stevia Sphere HQ are closed and the desks caked in dust, the essence of everything that made the company an exceptional business force is encompassed in this celebratory conclusion. The chords stay largely the same, providing a dependable structure upon which the artist can express themselves. Stevia Sphere captures that sensation of a painful yet comforting goodbye so perfectly, the saxophone melody hinting at heartache and nostalgic pain. One can almost imagine seeing the person that carried out the forbidden expedition through the elevator CCTV of their apartment block, crumpled in the corner as they are submerged by emotion.
This final excursion as Stevia Sphere acts as a reiteration, revisitation and refinement all in one. The story of the explorer finding the tape by mistake frames the project in a wonderfully unique way. It allows the artist to approach the style they have made from three points on the creative spectrum. They enter into it as the proud CEO who experienced the struggles and successes of Stevia Sphere, and as the eager explorer stumbling upon something fresh and new with an open mind and frantic excitement. Somewhere in the middle of these two identities is the artist, candid and pure in their expression. In Elevator Relaxation Tape 5, we find a teary-eyed celebration full of wonder and affection.