Wise Queen Records / Shapta – 4th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Abrasive Trees may be the solo project of Scottish-born guitarist and singer Matthew Rochford, and this may be a debut release, but already the project has acquired a roll-call of contributors on a par with Pigface or The Damned. Amongst these are Peter Yates (Fields of The Nephilim), Mark Beazley (Rothko/Band of Holy Joy), Steven Hill (Evi Vine), and Jo-Beth Young (Talitha Rise/RISE/Yates & Young).

The sum of this three-tracker bears little obvious relation to its parts, in the best possible way: there’s no sense of baggage or of any of the contributors striving to define the sound with their various stylistic signatures, and what’s more, none of the compositions sound remotely alike, showcasing a creative openness and willingness to experiment and embrace different forms.

Emerging from a thick atmospheric mist, ‘Bound for an Infinite Sea’ has gothic overtones, with picked guitars echoing out over a deep, rumbling bass. With hints of early Cure, Skeletal Family and Salvation, it broods through shadowy shapes in a fashion that’s perfectly evocative of the early 80s post-punk sound, but it’s also spun with an ethereality that owes as much to the 4AD roster and 90s shoegaze. Rochford’s voice sounds dislocated, disembodied, as it floats into the air, lost, alone. The production is hazy, a vagueness hangs over the notes, with the instruments blurring together as the percussion lingers hesitantly in the background.

Beginning with hints of expansive post-rock, there’s almost a folky feel to the delicate instrumental ‘Brother Saint’, which washes into the more abstract, experimental semi-ambience of ‘Replenishing Water (Stripped)’.

Uncertainty, trepidation, and a certain sense of otherness permeate this set, and if Abrasive Trees’ identity and direction seems unclear at its conclusion, then it’s all to the good, leaving open all avenues and possibilities for exploration.

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