Next month marks the release of acoustic guitarist Nick Edward Harris’s sophomore album, The Tall Trees, a gripping progression from his debut album Chimera. As the title suggests, the record is very much influenced by the outdoors, with his decision to quit his job and move to New Zealand being reflected in both releases. His first release saw him collaborate with the likes of Ted Dwane (Mumford and Sons), with London producer Nick Trepka (Speech Debelle, Kieran Leonard, Emmy the Great) assisting in the making of this one. Nick describes the album, to be released via Shifted Fiction Records, as “a very different animal to the first”, continuing to say that, “we became obsessed with capturing the right atmosphere…we made a decision early on to record this entirely at night, ending in a wonderful madness and exhaustion.”
A minimalistic and marginally dull opening to Calm Your Demons doesn’t provide the best promise of how the album will turn out; fortunately, the whole record can’t be based on the first two minutes of the album’s opener. As soon as things step away from the standard one-man-and-his-guitar format, the sound becomes unique and rather captivating. Hints of Eastern influences build into a style that’s closer to experimental than straightforward acoustic, and in turn, the depth of the sound makes it into something highly atmospheric.
Nick has attempted to capture a mood in the music, and for every track this is excellently executed. Where atmospheric music frequently resorts to a heavy sound to hold impact, Unarmed does this is a light and accessible manner. Other track, such as A Sterile Heart a more buoyant sound, keeping the music controlled enough to sound both oppressive and subtle, layers building up then stripping back the song. Here, the music nods its head towards the likes of Erik Mongrain, with other tracks such as Then and Now leaning towards the likes of Andy McKee.
There’s ample variety in the instrument of the album, with Black Box’s piano-lead sound contrasting the previous violin or percussion driven pieces. Closer to compositions than simply “songs”, each perfectly orchestrated track would be apt to stretch far past the couple of minutes each one extends to. Though it feels as though it has the potential to be an album designed to be listened to in one sitting, there are distinctive shifts between each track, each distinguishable from the last. Moments sound like dubbed down Crowded House meets Frank Turner (The Horse Road) and many other sound like every style of percussion guitar wound together.
It’s a highly overused term, but this record puts the “awe” back into “awesome”; expertise and intricacy go hand in hand with simplicity and ease, making a personal favourite album of the year so far.