Tongues in Trees Wrap Up Their Lush, Enveloping Sonic Cocoon at Barbes This Week
Hypnotic, thoughtfully adventurous trio Tongues in Trees wind up their May residency at Barbes with a show tomorrow night, May 27 at around 8 PM. It can be pretty comical to see how bands tag themselves, but this crew found a bunch that fit: “experimental art rock folktronica indian classical New York.” But one they didn’t pick – psychedelia – probably describes them best. On their debut ep – streaming at Bandcamp – singer Samita Sinha, guitarist Grey McMurray and drummer Sunny Jain take dreamy pastoral soundscapes, many of them colored with the precise modulations and ecstatic peaks of Indian carnatic nusic, and set them to trancey rhythms orchestrated with richly multilayered guitar textures.
The album’s first track, Howl Like (Running Brooks) opens with resonant, lingering guitar and Jain’s wind-chime cymbals, Sinha choosing her spots as the washes and gently jangling guitar loops rise and fall, the drums finally picking up with a mighty majesty. It’s the closest thing here to what the band sounds like live.
The second cut, Love Letter is a gently swaying lullaby – Sinha uses a gauzy filter on her tenderly keening vocalsa, way up toward the top of her her stratospheric range, as she often does onstage as the song builds to another soaring crescendo before fading down gracefully. Parallel sets Sinha’s nuanced, microtonal carnatic vocals and McMurray’s subtly polyrhythmic jangle and swoosh over a hypnotic, persistent motorik groove. The last track is Meri Bhavana, taking the gentle/rippling dichotomy of the second song up a notch.
At the first night of their residency earlier this month, it was especially cool to see Jain behind a full kit – rather than the big, boomy dhol bass drum he pummels in bhangra brass band Red Baraat – utilizng everything from the rims to the hardware with jazz precision and wit. Sinha alternated between mics and effects, a pillowy, springlike tone and full-gale intensity. McMurray, for a guy who plays very economically, really gives himself a workout onstage, always in search of the perfect timbre and the perfect spot for a note or a phase, many of which he spun through a loop pedal. Pouncing from one stompbox to another, he was like a stepdancer or a marine on an obstacle course, managing to knock over just a single drink in the process. A special guest added some looming trombone lines and also a dub edge to the several of the songs via a mixing board.