Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Visions of Trees – The Jericho, Oxford, 20/10/11

24 October 2011, 19:56 | Written by Andy Johnson

Within the Oxford music scene the Jericho Tavern is a little off the beaten track in more ways than one. Much more so than the O2 Academy on bustling Cowley Road, the pub’s long and narrow upstairs music room has built a reputation for hosting intimate shows by up-and-coming independent and alternative artists. Tonight, its stage becomes a sort of theatre of the surreal as London electronic duo and bloggers’ favourites Visions of Trees play a potent but oddly under-attended show which sees them joined by some amusingly inappropriate support.

Joni Juden and Sara Atalar have existed as Visions of Trees since 2009, during which time their propensity for animal masks and reputation for being more prolific as remixers than as writers have kept them in the shadows to a certain extent. New releases from the duo are rare and the appearance of new single “Sirens (Novocaine)” is more than enough justification for the short UK tour that brings Juden and Atalar to Oxford.

No support had ever been advertised for the show, and so it comes as a surprise when the Shapes turn up. A folk-rock seven-piece depleted to five and with members twice the age of the headliners, the local band are a slightly baffling presence (“we’re supported by a country covers band tonight”, Juden tweets somewhat harshly). But to put credit where it’s due, the Shapes play a thoroughly enjoyable set of solid, well-practised songs and prove game and friendly throughout, despite the near-empty venue. Not bad for a last minute booking of a band who are friends of the Jericho’s sound man…

Although the audience has scarcely grown by the time they take the stage, Visions of Trees show no intention of pulling their punches. Playing in such circumstances must be dispiriting, but as Juden hunches in focus over his equipment and Atalar remains as fascinating vocalist a ever, it hardly shows. Here is an act of real mystique and allure; there is more to the darkness in this room than the low lighting.

Central to this are the new songs. In stark contrast to the more euphoric material on the free Sometimes It Kills EP recorded in Visions’ early days, the new single at the core of this set is a dark and lacerating dance tune of real weight. Music absolutely of the night, “Sirens” has Atalar singing of tears turned poisonous, then of a host of images of violence and decay. At the same time, the song still feels like the invigorating twist on familiar club tropes, its moody exterior containing a powerful chorus.

Especially given the focus on fielding new material which is destined for the duo’s debut album next year, this show feels like a secret introduction to the emergence of a real force. Being given the benefit of hearing these excellent new tracks in recorded form should give the future Visions of Trees shows even more primal power and, if justice is done, a larger audience too.

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