reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
In her poem “Magnus and Morna”, Dinah Craik writes, “A secret at home is like rocks under tide”, and though perhaps the author and poet of nineteenth century England bares little in resemblance to the electro pop duo Church of Trees, the simile resonates with the buried sensations in their debut EP, Primitive Creatures. Perhaps it’s the hushed whispers that conclude “Crumbs (There’s Only Now)” — Church of Trees’ first single off Primitive Creatures — or maybe it’s the way the EP grows ever-darker as you slip deeper into the five tracks, but the record imparts like a secret. There is treasure here.
Church of Trees is made up of writer and producer Bernard Frazer and vocalist Felicity DeCarle. “The two of us couldn’t be more different,” Church of Trees explain. But that’s what gives Primitive Creatures its uniqueness. The band strives for “lyrics that weave sketches of the fantastical with glimpses of gritty reality.”
The EP begins with the personal celebration of independent mothers in the magically melodic “She’s the Star”, an introduction of Church of Trees’ art-pop auteur influences (you can hear some Grimes in the vast dance-floor swells of “Crumbs (There’s Only Now)” and the love-infused foreboding pop of “Restart ft. Charlie Valentine”). “Primitive Creatures” trades the magical fairy light twinkle of “She’s the Star” for the wail of guitars and a sultry vocal style, proving a diversity of skill, and veering towards those gritty realities.
Like buried treasure or the rocks under the tide, “Always Away” rewards the listener at the end of the EP. A buzzing synth underlies the track and gives the instrumentation a Metric-like edge, while lyrics turn from melancholy “I never see you anymore” to self-expressive repetitions of “I’m always away”.
While Bernard Frazer’s production takes risks and plays with design from song to song, DeCarle’s luscious vocals begin to feel relaxed as the album progresses. The spaces she goes to are where she soars, but to be established among the celebrated pop vocalists of today, experimentation would reap rewards.
It is refreshing to see pop musicians working together to take back the genre from stereotypes of triviality, and Church of Trees are a worthy addition to that cause. Though Primitive Creatures delivers like a bundle of secrets, this is pop music that should be exposed. Church of Trees are no secret to keep close.
Top Track: “Always Away”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)