Music Reviews

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Artist: Reanimation (@)
Title: nder the Last Tree on Earth
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Well here's a CD that's been a long time coming to review. The copy I was sent to me was damaged, and I had to ask the artist (Michael Shanahan, from Winfield, Illinois) for another copy which he graciously provided. Other things came up and it was a little while before I could get to review it. Reanimation is Shanahan's solo project that took root in 2006, but its seeds were planted much earlier in the bands Every Part of the Animal and Quixotic, back in the 90's. Since then Shanahan did one other Reanimation album, 'Giants Hide Among Us' (2011). I decided to sample a little bit of all of that for frame of reference. I can definitely see his progression over the years, culminating in 'Under the Last Tree on Earth', a remarkable and diverse album that defies categorization. Experimental, post-rock, psychedelic, ambient, progressive, space-rock, art rock, trip hop and even a touch of goth, it's all here on 'UTLTOE' in one form or another, often mixed together so there is no way this can be pigeon-holed.

Opening strong with "Dead Heart Souvenir", the track carries a similar moody tension to Massive Attack's "Angel" and a touch of Pink Floyd. While Shanahan doesn't have a particularly strong voice, it's effective for the material. An excellent beginning that draws you in with all its idiosyncrasies such as the wild flute in the background. A real burner! Switching gears for "Abigail's Ashes Came Home", this melancholy mood piece features a mournful oboe over atmospherics and plaintive piano. Sort of reminds me a little of the instrumental part of Roxy Music's "Chance Meeting", more in the mood than song structure. The vocal doesn't come in til well past the three minute mark, and the song picks up steam from that point, turning almost shoegazey. The nearly buried dialogue sample adds a little ambience; echoes of ghosts of the past. Things really take of with "Surprise Hitchiker", a quirky rocker with Joy Division-esque bass and drums, a weird rhythmic sample that sounds like a cardboard box in a washing machine, with a simple but effective guitar line. This has all the hallmarks of pre-ambient Brian Eno (especially in the vocal department), and it's one helluva great rock song. The mostly acoustic number (until the end) "The Space Between Words" comes out of the same psychedelic playbook as bands similar to Ash Ra Temple, more of a transitional mood piece than anything definitive. "And You" is likely the weakest piece on the album. The hammered staccato piano chords quickly grow tedious and the vocals are too understated to be effective. The song builds to a battery of sound but ultimately misses the mark. The piano on "Growing with the Growing Light" is much better as Reanimation moves back into rockier territory. It's an anthemic number that a band like Oasis might have wish they'd written.

"Opiate of the Hoi Polloi" returns to the psychedelic with a Velvet Underground style jam with a recorded phone message sample woven into it. While it doesn't really go anywhere, it is nevertheless interesting in an atmospheric sort of way. There's plenty of krautrock influence on "The Serpent Fire (Everything Fades)" with what sounds like mellotron during the verses. The vocals could have been pumped up a little more, sort of getting lost in the sauce of heady guitar stew. The finale, "She Never Sleeps" begins with perky acoustic guitar fingerpicking over a minimal beat (kick drum) and synth strings. It's gentle at first, picking up a little steam along the way. Shanahan's vocals are rather endearing here. The song has a lot of commercial potential, and I don't just mean sales units or radio play, but I could actually hear it being used in a product commercial. Maybe not the whole tune but some of it.

So overall Reanimation's 'Under the Last Tree on Earth' is a bit of a conundrum. It's not experimental enough to fall into left field/gray area music, and it's too eccentric to be considered alternative rock. A well-known band such as Radiohead might get away with this kind of anomalous format and still be praised for it. Less prominent artists encounter difficulty in establishing an identity (and increasing their fan base) when they try to cross too many genres. Shanahan isn't afraid to take risks though, and I applaud him for that. Even though this isn't a perfect album, and is likely not to appeal to everyone, there is just so much good material on it that it cannot be overlooked. If you're wanting some adventurous moody music that still has its roots in alternative rock, you might want to spend some time Under the Last Tree on Earth.



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