Psycho Tree – Black January

Artist Psycho Tree
Album Black January
Genre Post-Rock / Progressive / Experimental
Buy/DL VK (Translate the page)
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Label Independent
Release 2013
Rating Very Good

(IamHop note – A BIG thanks for Erich Heider for writing this review. This release is truly a gem.)

Thanks to the gods of the internet (and IamHop) I have the distinct pleasure to review a release from what might be THE most remote group of people playing post- music ever.  The members of Psycho Tree hail from the cities of Tomsk and Krasnoyark, located in fucking Siberia! Now, a word about that, before you think its some dudes in a hut in the snow, or a work camp, or something. Almost a million people live in this area, and none other than Anton Chekhov chose to proclaim it the most beautiful city in Siberia. Take that for what you think it may be worth, but acknowledge that it probably isn’t what one would think of as a hotbed of musical experimentation.  Yet that’s exactly what the gentlemen from Psycho Tree are offering on their new album, “Dark January.”

This trio claims to be highly improvisational, making no performance the same. Although due to the fact that this is the only work I’ve heard from them I can’t verify that, I can say that the music lends itself to such jammed out explorations and musical alliteration.  Much of this feeling comes from the great amount of “swing” Psycho Tree exhibit in the moody tempo variations and super organic sound.  These guys can swing in the jazz sense, although the music itself isn’t very jazzy. I would also assume that this means most, if not all, of the songs on this album are single takes. If that’s truly the case, its magical, and something to be quite proud of.

In point of fact, like any post- band that doesn’t fit in with a certain wave or “camp,” it’s a challenge in itself to classify the music on “Dark January,” except to say that it can be both starkly beautiful and surprisingly rocking. Everyone here really knows how to play, and the interesting things pop up because of the sometimes divergent styles of the players. Sure, there are a few signature post rock EITS moments, but where Explosions sometimes sound distant to their melodic storytelling…looking from the outside, Psycho Tree’s pastoral moments feel more inhabited and living, fetid with the humid breath of biomass. Really that’s just part of the picture though, because when these guys start to pour on the “rock” part of post rock, they actually do. They “truck.” Bass slithers a bit like early Tool. Drums cross the spectrum from a bouncy Neal Pert-ian jaunt to more straight ahead metal feel without taking it too far. Guitar goes from ethereal to narrative to police siren with ease. When needed, these elements can really fill up the spaces, making one forget that it’s just a trio, which is impressive in its own right.

Even song length is deceptive on “Dark January.” At around a bit over five minutes average, each composition is so enchanting that nothing drags on, and no motif ever overstays its welcome, but instead mutates into a variant of a variant. I imagine this fertility of metamorphosis would also lend itself to the improvisational characteristics of the band’s performances.

In some ways this band is like a great secret, though I don’t think they try to make it that way.  Even with the translations on, there’s not too much information floating around about Psycho Tree, and the music is a little harder to get then your standard Bandcamp type of release. I really hope that will change, because this music deserves a wider audience. In the meantime, I guess if you want to be a post- hipster, drop the name, because these guys are unfortunately pretty obscure.

Besides that, the only real negative I feel that I should mention is that, while passable, the production could be better, and the music would certainly benefit from it.  There are no glaring problems with the sound at all…in fact for what I can imagine being only a semi-professional production job (just my speculation) it holds up very well, and may well capture the energy and improve abilities of  PT better than a more sterile studio venture. The mix is very well done, and every instrument retains its individual space while being clear. Bass is particularly well recorded, with a very old school familiarity that shades the overall musical landscape nicely. I have a feeling this was all done in one big room, because at certain moments the guitar sets of a slight buzz from the drum snares, which a noise gate could have helped with. The guitar is occasionally overpowering in certain listening situations, but issues like that are a problem with any mix for any band.

If you enjoy what by word definition (as opposed to scene definition) post rock, you will enjoy Psycho Tree. They truly deserve the attention, so if you dig it, spread the word. It can only help shine the light on other hidden nooks of good listening.

Those Amongst Us Are Wolves – Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behaviour

Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behaviour cover art

Combining one part post-rock, one part ambient and a splash of drone, Those Amongst Us Are Wolves offer up their debut EP.  Slow to build, each track reaches full fruition throughout excellent use of build ups. Definitely a unique musical journey that includes some downright insanity in the track “Jacob’s Ladder”.

A Sudden Burst of Color – Reborn EP

Reborn EP cover art


Instrumental based rock music based around atmospheric / ambient textures and melodies. The band began around the start of 2012 and this is their debut EP.  Second EP due shortly. ‘Reborn’ is a spacious and lively EP that effortlessly weaves together elements of third wave post-rock and ambient roots.

Lost in Kiev – Motions

Motions cover art

I’m not really sure how we missed this release last year. Yesterday we satisfied our Ambient readers. Time to crank things up as we head into the weekend.  Very impressive stuff. Check it out and leave a comment below!

Where did all the reviews go?

I’ve stopped writing music reviews because after 10 months and 150 reviews my listening habits have gotten drastically worse and my overall enjoyment of all music has severely decreased to the point where listening to new music and writing reviews is no longer fun. I love music too much to keep doing this to myself, so I’m making the selfish decision to abstain from writing reviews at this time.

I always had this Holden Caulfield ala Catcher in the Rye complex when it came to Postrockstar. If I knew about a release, no matter how big or how obscure it might be, I needed to review it. I needed to save every album from being just another strand of data on the infinite internet. The people needed to know about the these artists and their works of art that they would otherwise probably never find. When you think like this and are in a position to discover bands and albums at will, backlogs of work quickly form. At the height of Postrockstar, I was pouring 12-15 hours a week into this site and still not scratching the surface of our backlog. Even with the help of other writers, who write for our site for no compensation, we could never keep up with the sheer amount of requests we get from bands asking to review their work. As it stands my inbox sits at 96 unread messages, 3 weeks after I removed the email link from the site.

Which leads me to the other reason I’ve stopped writing reviews: Bands who take reviews personal. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of very personable bands who have facilitated my every need and have been nothing but kind and helpful to me.  The majority of the time I enjoyed what I heard from them and we both mutually benefited from our contact with one another.But what am I to do when I receive their music and I dislike it? If I write a negative review to a band who has been courteous to me and Postrockstar, a band will come back to me upset and in full defense mode. It’s happened on more occasions than I can recall. A lot of people wonder why our website has a lack of negative reviews. If I write a negative review, who am I really helping? I put myself in an awkward position with the band and ultimately put postrockstar in a no-win situation. We piss off a band and sometimes even our readers who disagree with the review. The only thing bad reviews have ever done for the site is increase our traffic. I’m not in the controversy business. I’m in the discover new music business.

Lastly, just as there are bands who are extremely friendly and helpful, unfortunately there are quite a few bands out there that are pushy, disrespectful and have treated Postrockstar as just another way to sell albums. I am more than willing to help promote hard-working bands and help undiscovered talents get exposure. I am not OK with being treated poorly by bands who are trying to push $15 independently released bandcamp downloads down our reader’s throats. In those 96 unread messages from the last 5 weeks, there are no less than four bands who have sent 6 or more emails  including one band who has sent exactly 12 emails. If you are in a band that recently sent us an email and want to know why we haven’t responded, it’s because I’ve all together stopped taking requests and don’t have the heart to tell hard-working bands “No” to their requests for reviews. It’s a case of a few bad apples ruining it for the rest of the bunch.

As much as I love post-* music and want to keep helping people discover music, I’m not willing to do it at the expense of my own happiness. When I started Postrockstar last year I was between careers with all the free time in the world. As that came to an end and I adjusted back to life as an office drone, my free time became less and less which meant that I value it more and more. I realized I couldn’t keep pouring all my free time into something that wasn’t making me happy. Music reviews ultimately became a thankless never-ending job for all the reasons above. I’m not ruling out writing reviews in the future and Postrockstar will still continue to promote albums and post relevant news we see fit. I’m sorry if this comes as a severe disappointment.