Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
永遠にさようなら drifts slowly into the path of the listener. desert sand feels warm at night’s signature shroud of sound billowing in from the sky above us. Fairly high pitched melody is the first we hear, giving time for the deeper more moving sections of the melody to fade in. Percussion patters like echoed footsteps, that environment so tied to the artist’s style. Expansive at its least powerful, boundless at its most. The tune is one of anxious earnest. Fragile in its warbling high pitched melodies and longing in its bassy movements. The swells of sound are sincerely hypnotising, a feeling that will be predictable for fans of desert sands.
世界を見下ろす strikes a more dignified tone from the outset. Single piano notes pushed out confidently into dusty space. Again, percussion slithers about in the ether like someone walking around just out of the field of view. The artist expertly draws sequences out, so that when the piano introduction falls into the vocals section, the listener goes along with it seamlessly and without a second thought. This vocal refrain is the most engaging part of the song as a whole. desert sands seems to have inched the pitch of the original vocalist up just a little, the cadence of their voice incredibly high and siren-like. At the end of every bar it dives down low, creating this cyclical feeling to the section. The real kicker is that the album is completely sample free. Astounding to say the least, as its somewhat comforting to think of the vocal coming from some odd song from some time ago. But taking on board that it is original sound while listening makes for a shockingly impressive track and uniquely serene experience.
More sharply pitched vocals as 雲への子守唄 begins. The melody of the voice has a more rounded quality to it, the end of the loop curling round like a lullaby. A really piercing feeling of moonlit introspection radiates from the singer. Just as we are ready to drift off in the arms of this warm tune, the track’s floor falls out and we dive into a deep and more dramatic section. The shrill piano replaced with glossy background piano. desert sands allows the pairing of voice and keys to float out towards the listener, slowly raising a wall of noise in the background. Somehow the artist achieves this halfway house between feelings of vertigo and dizziness and warming somnolent tranquility. The listener feels adrift, miles above the ground, but safe and sound in the arms of the chords and gentle lapping of the percussion.
至福の空 takes us back to the haunting power of desert sands instrumentation. Bells and choral pads reach over to us from beyond. Echoes of sound fall into played instruments in a slow and sleepy march. Every time the loop revolves back around, we can hear a little more padding added, a little more general noise and supporting melody. All of a sudden it becomes apparent what we were being readied for as the song shifts into a solemn and euphoric lament, lower bass sounds accompanying the glimmering starlight riffs. Trilling piano turning into glistening moonlight as it escapes. Another uncanny voice enters the fray of beautiful sound. This one slightly lower than what would be natural, crooning in a strangely dulcet and deep tone. desert sands achieves this elongated catharsis in their style, not only is the music played at a slow pace, each climax and movement in tone or atmosphere is played out at a slower pace. This causes the listener to truly slow their own inner pace when listening, everything because blurred and dreamlike.
desert sands bursts forth with more angelic sounds in 魂の崩壊, a breathy refrain beginning until percussion arrives to gently caress it forward. There is whispers there of artists of old, of Christopher Cross or Cocteau Twins. However, whereas they burst forth lyrics and a clear structure, desert sands hides behind the beautiful gauze of reverb and blurring phaser. A clearer binary chord progression emerges from what sounds like 80s synth chords, providing a foil to the notes from before. Little moments of wholesome deliverance, spaced out over long and patient runtimes.
Smouldering heartache emanates from the start of 心の散逸. Sandy percussion giving rise to a melody tinged with worry and regret. A glistening panpipe-like lead escapes from the slushy backdrop, dancing just separate from the haze. A master of increment, desert sands spreads it out sparsely over the track, chiming in where the artist felt it was relevant. It becomes this lovesick lament, the bass setting up a perfect stage for the lead melody, heartbroken when it does not arrive and complete when it does.
The very simply named 私。begins with a naive, descending tune. desert sands sets a waltz-like atmosphere, the phased instruments helping to depict a slowly spinning expansive setting. The gossamer instruments moving in a swaying motion, the sway at the very end of each bar concluding brief but emotive melodic sequences. The tune desert sands focuses our attention has all of this feeling tangled up within it, there is moments of positivity, longing, heartbreak and acceptance. The dance breaks up as vocals career towards us from atop some high precipice. This tearjerking soprano gliding out over the mix. The patient compositional style is the key to the song’s soul, much like many of the artist’s material. The slow beckoning in of chord progressions until they burst out fully formed. They do so as the vocalist cries out in song, setting the main hook in motion for a short while. Angelic pads float down around us, everything in a slow state somewhere between decay and rebirth. desert sands places us at the epicentre of a very special, very meaningful world.
A defiant hum breathes out at the beginning of ノ. More graceful piano flutters from some distant land, calmly waiting for the artist to raise it from its deep and muffled cavern. The ascending piano melody repeats a number of times, slowly edging out of hiding. By now, we long for the artist to bring in that affirming bass note, to drive this pristine depiction of sadness forward to somewhere more positive. All that comes at first is white noise, the sound of rain gently trickling and cars edging past. Then everything fades out, even the hum ebbs away to a complete silence.
A pause of what could be seconds or a lifetime goes by. A new piano begins to sound out into the darkness on the bonus track. Loosely following the melody of 雲への子守唄, the feeling is completely different. The swirling reality of desert sands 雲海に漂う has washed away, and a solitary pianist plays us out.
On 雲海に漂う, desert sand feels warm at night welcomes the listener into a strangely comforting realm. Full of feelings of unease and comfort in equal measure, the overall feeling is one of dreamy remembrance. There’s pockets of real strong emotion, alongside slushy loops and beautiful original vocals. Another addition to the artist’s back catalogue, and one that’s thoughtfulness stays with the listener for some time.