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- The Fields Lie Sleeping Underneath by The Hardy Tree
9/10 Mike Staff review, 14 December 2011
When I picked this one out of the reviews pile, I thought that the lovingly handmade covers with hints of pastoral Victoriana meant that I was in for some kind of knowingly twee folk situation, but I'm finding myself pleasantly surprised. The Hardy Tree is in fact a pseudonym of Frances Castle (who has previously recorded under the name Transistor Six), and this album is a somewhat experimental collection of organic-sounding bedroom electro acoustic music with a gentle pace to allow the listener to fully be absorbed into her world of smooth tones and gentle melodies. That's not to say that the artwork's Victoriana seems out of place; there's a definite sense of both musical and lyrical themes unearthing history and approaching it from a more modern viewpoint. With a carefree simplicity to its structures it feels like future music from the past, comforting like a hand-painted Dan Dare comic. Synthesisers and loops and programmed beats accompany live strings and xylophone and vocals to make something where the influence of machines pervades everything but never overpowers the organic elements of the music. I wasn't kidding about the covers, either. Castle's designed and printed them herself and her illustration style is devastatingly charming - the three colour urban fox print on the front cover alone is worth the price of this CD, and the canvas-bound booklet is a treat too.
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