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Album Review: Jeff Appleton: ‘Drawing Trees on Paper’/ ‘Greatest Misses’

The title of Appleton’s previous work ‘Drawing Trees on Paper’ can hint at unfinished work: cursory pre-amble sketches, tentative explorations, charcoal lines, pastel hues, primitive, primal and primary. But it is a fully realized work. A work rewarded by repeat listening. The beautifully rustic hand-crafted design of the physical copies and their artwork adds to the artful personality of these very distinctive instrumental tracks. The title track (favourite of this listener) takes my breath away in its granular, sub-atomic detailed glory. Appleton travels down his own nature trails, very much an original, but if you’re looking for touchstones, maybe the ghosts of William Orbit and Moby are in the wings. This is Warp as cottage industry, homespun and beguiling.

Now we have ‘Greatest Misses’; a compilation of Appleton’s earlier albums (including a couple from ‘Trees’ – title track’s missing though, so you have to buy both). Like a vast tome of pressed flowers, it’s hard to select stand-out individual beauty because the beauty is in the context and the sequencing. Appleton’s work works as a whole, the segue and sequence are important. I’m a fan of the album format, so at first, I’m a bit thrown off by the new order (hmmm – Ed) of this collected works. But, no! I’m as happy as a hippo in mud, wading and wallowing in new found delights. And if I had to be pushed, for a secluded island, I’d grab this in the lifeboats.

Maybe most of these older tunes ARE the sketches for ‘Trees’ but I once again find myself in shimmering translucent soundscapes, hinting at space and even deeper negative space, soft undefined edges and washes of pale soft-focus water colours. The palette is subtler than primary colours. John Cage’s transparent music sheets play in my mind, of viewing things that shouldn’t be seen, although atonality has no part of this. These are pretty electronic tunes indeed, joyous, symphonic. And pastoral. I see summer through heat shimmer and sun-flared dandelion seeds. And glacial wintery landscapes glimpsed through headlong cascading snow.

The word ‘translucent’ keeps resurfacing in my mind, as this is translucent, transcendent pop-musik at its most artful and refined. It’s not always about what’s included but what’s left out. There are no edges or outlines but merely suggestions, by Appleton’s use of textures, pastel smudges and tonal shading. A joy to behold. Drum machines skitter like brittle decaying leaves, his Stratocaster chimes like shards of sunlight. There is immense skill in play here, with fluidity and layering in his synth arrangements, all is pristine and uncluttered. We can hear (and ‘see’ everything), things half-glimpsed beneath other surfaces. This is the purest pristine electronica, born of both Cubase and Acid. But, contradictorily, seeming of nature, and wholly naturalistic. Two beautiful and compulsory pieces of tonal Art (with the biggest possible capital A). Jeff, I doff my cap to your canvas

Craig M #WEATNU Digital Magazine

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