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Album Review: "Tree" (2020) by Shining Pyramid

Tree, the third album of the London-based duo, was released in December 2020. Created by the collaboration of Peter Jeal and Nick Adams, the music draws inspiration from the prog-rock scene of the seventies and the early electronic scene: but with their synthesizer work, skillful guitar leads, and wide instrumentation (including mellotron and piano) the duo prove their own original place within the progressive rock scene today. The album consists of both melancholic and dynamic atmospheric songs that are incredibly well-produced, carrying their listener through a different theme in each track.

1. Transmitter C (09:18)

The first song of the album starts off with a soft electronic sound accompanied by the repeating melodic pattern from the sequencer. The song creates the perfect transcendental effect, starting off with the usage of techno sound effects and then transforming into a calm guitar lead that is backed up by the gentle 3/4 drumming in the background. Even though a variety of sounds are layered throughout the song, none of them drowns out the other.

As the song progresses, the synthesizer, the skillful contribution of Peter Jeal, joins in on the colorful soundscape. We think that the synthesizer may have been in the spotlight more than it already is in the song, as it really adds to the overall progyness of the song. As the song draws to an end, you realize that you drifted away with the song, proving that the duo did a great job in making a 9 minute, relatively serene song captivating and sophisticated.

2. Triskel (04:11)

With using the different rhythmical patterns of guitars, Triskel hits the listener with the experimental approach to guitar structured songs—like the 80s ethnic King Crimson stuff. Being the unconventional band as they are, they outline rather disturbing chords with their note selection. The minimal additions of keyboards and drums certainly keep the listener interested, especially the swell-ins of synth adds to the tension that has been built with the 3 over 4 polyrhythmic parts. Keeping the initial polyrhythm the same, they use the same signature formula and play vibrated led synth melodies on top of the progression. After a short interlude of the synthesizer, Shining Tree brings back the initial repetitive riffs. But the small keyboard and drumming changes & additions of the outro intensifies the listener and gives the resolution feeling that the song deserves. One thing that they could be done better is would be to keep the first 3 minutes shorter and focusing on the resolving part more—as it feels a little bit repetitive in the beginning and ends a little abruptly.

3. Campfire (03:03)

Being reminiscent of the ''campfire'' songs of the alternative rock world, the third track instantly screams that it's not your typical feel-good guitar tune, with the unconventional chord progression. They apparently were searching for a more emo feel that eventually ties up the whole keyboard and rhythm with the initial guitar riff. As the song gets more and more layered, the expectation of a buildup feels more expected. However, SP rather continues the same progression that they in the intro section. Although the band was also aware of this dynamic intensity of the initial parts, they chose not to resolve all the tension and put a keyboard solo in front of the backing track. Finally, in the outro, the ascending chords carry the listener out from the song—giving the feeling of accomplishment and completeness.

With this short track, the band shows their ability to developed a simple idea and layer it with different instruments and ideas. However, a thing that they could've done better would be to create a difference between the dynamic ranges of the sections. That would increase the memorability of the song and enhance the musical story that they are telling by keeping the listener more interested.

4. Rain (04:58)

Rain stands out in the album as it features the piano: an instrument that creates an entirely different mood, one that is melancholic and heavy. As this piano refrain, which is quite simple and made up of only five notes, repeats itself in the entirety of the song, the spaced-out contribution of the synthesizer and guitar catches attention. Thus, the title of the song is quite appropriate: it’s as if the refrain is the rhythmic fall of the rain, and the guitar only adds to the feeling of a dark, rainy sky. Similar to the first song, Rain does a great job when it comes to creating an emotional atmosphere that takes the listener along.

5. Like Katriona (10:20)

Being the longest track of the album. Like Katriona is a prog madness at its finest. It is a mixture of early Genesis, Yes, and a little bit of Pink Floyd: The Big Three of 70s English prog scene. This can be best exemplified by a combination of the Floydian delayed guitar riff and Genesis style lead synth melodies of the intro. With this song, the band chose to settle on a more aeolian-based chord progression and continue it for minutes as they always do.

As the space-prog atmosphere goes on with delayed riffs and synth addition, you find yourself in a repetitive but ethereal soundscape of beautiful swell-ins and outs—which probably was what they were eventually after. The major thing that should be looked at is the way they created the breakdown for the song—with an instant but intense buildup. The peak of the song indicates all of the influences that ı mentioned, being the most beautiful moment of the album as a whole.

6. Weird Science (06:15)

Although the band generally does not depend solely on their atmospheric aspect, this song is an exceptional track where they were more only focused on the incoming and outgoing synth layered chords. To spice the whole process up, a soloing electric guitar was used in the background. But the guitar is the least signaling aspect of the song, where it just feels like some chirping bird noises in the background. The same loop continues for six minutes straight, showcasing all of their non-rhythmical and non-melodic abilities as musicians.

7. Joy? (05:32)

After a short entrance with the soft sound of the mellotron, Joy? may sound like another piece of atmospheric music, but as the electric guitar and 4/4 drum beat join in after a few seconds, the song proves to be a dynamic addition to the album. Of course, the song would be incomplete without the synthesizer’s eerie sound. A prominent aspect of the duo is the way they adapt their inspiration from the 70s prog and electronic scene into their own music, and this usage of the synthesizer proves their success. The artificial choir together with the repeating pattern of the guitar in the background shift into varying synth melody lines by the third-minute mark. It’s hard not to be impressed by the quality of sound produced by the duo, as it’s a challenge to make a creative, improv-like synthesizer solo sound purposeful.

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