Play Especially Misty for Me
Ambient music is undoubtedly one of the most difficult phenomena in popular music to describe, nonetheless review. Trees, the new solo release from ex-Cop Shoot Cop member Jim Coleman similarly treads the foggy, mystifying landscapes generally considered the genre’s trademark.
One would think with some of the titles here—”Summer Heat,” “Dawn” and “Rain,” specifically—Coleman seems to be waxing on the well-worn natural theme. And truth be told, with the rhythmic chirps and forrest-y swells that paint opener “Sideways,” as well as the digitized raindrops that introduce “Another Place,” one could discern a dewy mid-morning marsh beneath all the blips, bloops and classical swells. Assuming this was Coleman’s intention all along, such an earth-man-machine dynamic does well in charting his course for one of humanity’s most prized aims: becoming one with nature.
Though there are some slight flourishes toward classical modes, most of what the listener finds are synth and sample driven expanses that fade underneath the breathing string sections, then onto the next track without much notice. The album is organized into ten tracks, though as mentioned before, there is little indication one track has ended and the next has begun. This is likely intentional, of course, which renders the tracks proper more as “movements” in the classical sense. This creates a unified mood that carries the album from outset to finish: With scant use of the mixing board’s fader, tracks seem to wile and roam with vine-like continuity.
The pacing of the movements are highly concerted, and there are very few moments of true tension, which leave some moments feeling a bit hollow after a few listens. Even the spookily treated, yearning vocals (“Tracks,” “Dawn”) that sweep into some of the tracks don’t quite transcend the environment the listener finds their self in throughout. Still, the album’s more introspective, brooding repetitions create an admirable sense of stillness—like a rolling fog pausing atop a lake.
Though the mood is largely dour and unchanging, it is has a certain beauty about it, and the overall instrumentation is of a high quality. Trees is certainly quite a departure from what most would associate with Cop Shoot Cop, and that is a credit to Coleman as a performer and artist. However, Trees as a stand-alone artifact does little to distinguish itself from the elusive strains of the ambient-inspired genre.