Ken Maiuri’s Clubland: Two Tree’s minimalist sound blooms in small venues
PHOTO BY DREW GATH
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PHOTO COURTESY OF TWO TREE/FACEBOOK
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Last August, vocalist Keri Florence and guitarist Luis Granda, together known as Two Tree, went to upstate New York to create their debut EP, “Save Me Summer.” The tape rolled and the duo captured seven beautiful songs as crickets chirped in the background.
The Northampton-based twosome has a minimalist sound that blooms. The simple elements — Granda’s spacious acoustic guitar playing, Florence’s full-throated voice, the odd low bass note or electric swell — are all swaddled in gentle reverb, evoking big skies and open fields.
“We’re best suited for an intimate house show,” Granda said earlier this year. “Our music is quiet and does best with attentive listeners. Smaller spaces tend to treat us better.”
So tonight’s a perfect opportunity to see Two Tree, as they’ll be the featured act at the open mic at the Black Sheep Deli & Bakery in Amherst. Sign up for participants starts at 5:30 p.m.; the entertainment goes from 6:30 to 9:30 and will include a live set from Two Tree. It’s a free show.
Florence and Granda describe their music as “electric folk music from the heart and for the soul,” but it’s folk in a Red House Painters or Bon Iver way — intimate, personal, atmospheric.
It took me a year to discover “Save Me Summer” — the duo has already gone back to upstate New York to record their next release — but it’s easily one of my favorite discs of the year (available digitally at twotree.bandcamp.com, or as a deluxe handmade package with lyric booklet, photograph and choice of color scheme, at twotree.bigcartel.com/).
“Nobody Knows” is a striking, haunting highlight. Thunderstorms rumble off on the horizon while the verse pulses slowly, but the chorus switches tempo like a spooked horse galloping away. Over majestic clip-clop percussion, Florence’s voice rides a lilting melody. “You followed me / followed me home.”
“Leaving On the Light” is barely over two minutes in length but the dynamics are so masterfully arranged it feels epic. Florence lets her voice fly during a middle section but calms everything back down with the closing lyrics: “I’ll try to still the storm but the sea is breaking warm / I know it isn’t right / the sails we’ve got are worn / I’ll try to set my sight to take the watered storm / when this is all we hold to make the darkness bright / I’m leaving on the light.”
The title song has another pretty, emotional chorus, pushing one note so hard it almost becomes a wail. “I’ve tried, I’m taking it tall / I don’t know what’s going on / I’m alive, I’m taking it all.”
The only video I can find of the duo is from their performance at a talky Vermont restaurant — what’s great is how focused Florence and Granda are, even though friendly crickets have been replaced by clangy silverware and chatty customers. They let the slow tune take its sweet time, their special chemistry shining through.
Two Tree, in addition to their Black Sheep performance tonight, will appear at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket on Aug. 30 at 8:30 p.m.
Amazing Love, the semi-regular “hip-hop, punk, electro, whatever” dance party at The Elevens in Northampton, curated by deejays Blyth B and Joe Rogers, will have what may be one of its last go-rounds this Friday at 9:30 p.m.
Blyth B said in an interview earlier this week that it will be her “going away from deejaying night.” With a wedding, a move and more in her future, she’ll be moving on, but not before spinning a “literally all over the place” mix of favorites, which in the past has included artists like Madonna, M.I.A., Bruce Springsteen, The Undertones, Nicki Minaj, The Cars and much more.
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars — whose latest album, “Radio Salone,” was produced by Victor Axelrod (famous for his work with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Antibalas, Amy Winehouse and more) — bring its high-energy sound to the Iron Horse in Northampton Sunday at 7 p.m.