Thursday, September 24, 2009

Album Review: CODES - Trees Dream In Algebra (EMI)

(This article was originally written for the website Muso's Guide,

Trees Dream In Algebra is the debut album from Dublin-based four-piece CODES, but listening to it, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. From the tight musicianship and accomplished songwriting to the polished production and right down to the painstaking artwork, it’s difficult to imagine a band arriving more fully-realised. Not that they’ve materialised out of the blue: there’s been a buzz building around this act on the Irish music scene for quite a while – it helps that their ambitious, grandiose but unmistakeably pop sound stands in stark contast to the variations on indie-rawk/garage trash that domestic bands tend to favour - but even their most vocal supporters will probably be surprised at the quality of this record.

It’s an album in the truest sense; sequenced for maximum effect, peaking and swelling dramatically, and featuring recurring themes of snow and winter. Hell, such is the courage of its convictions that they’ve even done a Foals on it and left out one of their most popular songs, the Irish-charting single ‘Edith’. Opening track ‘Malfunctions’ sets the scene expertly with pulse-quickening, hyperactive electronics before segueing into ‘This Is Goodbye’, a track that showcases much of what is great about the band: an infectious cental hook, vocals that swoop and soar in all the right places and a chorus that sounds more gloriously show-stopping every time you hear it. It makes for a superb calling card, but there’s barely time to breathe before an insistent drumbeat and swirling, reverbed guitars announce ‘Guided By Ghosts’, where delightful harmonies jostle for attention with an instrumental backdrop that never stays in one place for too long.

When they scale things back, they’re just as impressive. ‘Magnetic North’ could well be the best track of the bunch – three minutes of gorgeous, dreamy ambience that leads into a dazzling instrumental and choral crescendo that Sigur Ros would be proud to call their own. Harmony-driven songs like ‘Cities’ and ‘In Algebra’, meanwhile, recall Delays’ better moments in their tuneful sweep. Throughout, Trees Dream In Algebra exhibits a cinematic aesthetic and sensibility, the tunes achieving an impressive balance between sky-scraping emoting and delicate atmospherics.

It’s obvious how much care and attention to detail went into creating this album, and the songwriting is impressive throughout. If there is a criticism, it’s that – particularly around the mid-point of the album – the grandiosity gets a bit overwhelming, and the album could maybe stand to lose a track from its total running time. It’s a relatively minor quibble though: this is the finest release by an Irish band in quite some time, and, considering how accomplished they sound now, one can only wonder where they end up going from here.

CODES will be playing an album launch show in Dublin's Academy on Saturday night. They follow that up with an appearance at the Lucan Festival on Sunday night and a show in The Set Theatre, Kilkenny on October 2nd. Friday night's show in Sligo has unfortunately had to be cancelled due to illness.

26 Sep 2009 Album Launch Show @ The Academy Dublin
27 Sep 2009 Lucan Festival 2009 Dublin
2 Oct 2009 The Set Theatre - Langtons Kilkenny

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