- Arno Sojo
As poetic musically as it is lyrically, The Snakes You Charm & The Wolves You Tame is an enchanting and sublimely enveloping taking of the imagination and emotions. Lush and magnetic the debut album from Sweet Gum Tree is a warm absorbing flight of vibrant and evocative ballads casting crystalline reflections. It is also a presence which evolves and seduces to greater extents with every listen, the songs expanding their embrace and thought summoning potency across numerous encounters to leave the listener lost and immersed in a spellbinding creative soak.
Sweet Gum Tree is the solo project of French songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Arno Sojo, an artist who for ten years played in various rock and electro bands, most notably his own creation Sojo Glider. Deciding to explore his emerging ideas and sound with an influence of ‘the timeless beauty of refined vintage records’, his uniquely named poetic chamber pop emerged to start tantalising ears as Sojo brought Sweet Gum Tree to life. The band was soon sharing stages with artists such as Heather Nova and Gaëtan Roussel, whilst various singles and EPs have equally drawn strong acclaim and attention to match his live performances. The new album is the next step to awakening a wider audience, something you suspect The Snakes You Charm & The Wolves You Tame will do with relative ease. Recorded with David Odlum (Gemma Hayes) and Peter Deimel (Deus, Anna Calvi) as well as featuring a wash of guest musicians including Isobel Campbell, Tindersticks drummer Earl Harvin, and Marty Willson-Piper from The Church, the last pair also joining the band for its upcoming tour debut UK tour, the album is a masterful persuasion of everything from ears and senses to thoughts and emotions. Partly composed with classical arranger Eric Voegelin who also arranged all the orchestration on the release, the album is a tender and melancholic temptation but one with warmth and hope which always leaves the final kiss.
Lyrically the album is a kaleidoscope of observations and reflective explorations, whether personal or as an outside perception, and dreamy if shadowed relationships. As shown by opener Redhead, a track which from a seemingly singular subject embraces all never to be seemingly submissive prejudices, the music written and presented on the album coats and reflects the words with a rich and deep understanding to the lyrical missive. The first song makes a slow and reserved entrance before a piano coaxing welcomes in the fine expressive tones of Sojo, both soon wrapped in the arms of delicious emotive strings, an evocation which constantly seduces and succeeds across the whole of the album. There is a quiet but firm drama to the song too, a seemingly personal angst expelled through heated enterprise which only increases the immediate and lingering lure of the track.
The wonderful New Rays follows and instantly raises the game, its opening thumping but respectful beats awakening an eager appetite which is soon fed by tempting guitar strokes and melodic enticement. It is a stomp of a song but one never brazen enough to lose its control and dispel mesmeric beauty, every aspect of the track energised yet confident in its restrained seduction. The best track on the album, well for today anyway as that choice has been known to change over various listens, it makes way for the excellent incitement of The Crimson Flush. A rosy blush lyrically and musically, the song is a resourceful smouldering of a glorious stringed narrative around the slightly Bowie-esque vocals. The track does walk the rim of show tunes in some ways but never to its detriment or loss of its irresistible coy suasion.
Both Bird of Passage which features the earlier mentioned Campbell as one part of a riveting duet, and the bewitching Last Chance Train continue the impressive glide of the album. The second of the two holds a familiarity to it but one which evades recognition within a weave of acoustic craft and textures within a melodic fascination. With rising crescendos of energy and emotion thrilling throughout its body, the track is simply a mouthwatering merger of rock and pop.
The following Astray with its sultry breath and elegantly inflamed walls and its successor the skittishly rhythmic Chew Up Spit Out provide two admittedly longer to convince but eventually succeeding propositions, their melodic charm and inventive radiance impossible to avoid and dismiss as their lyrical paintings provoke the imagination. Though neither match earlier heights, both leave an irresistible taste in the passions powerfully matched by the almost foxy delicacy and emerging feistiness of Grateful as Fire and the stringed grandeur aligned to an alluring intimacy presented by The Vulnerable Almighty.
The final pair of songs November Daughter and Breathtaker brings subdued yet melodically ornate and attractively stylish breezes to bear on the senses respectively; the two again songs which maybe want longer to seduce but do not err in their success as they light up the imagination and emotions. Certainly some tracks are stronger and richer in their infectious tempting than others and as to which do will definitely vary from person to person, but every song on The Snakes You Charm & The Wolves You Tame is an emotional colour driven sail through melodic and vivid life bred hues, and the strongest evidence that Sweet Gum Tree is set to inflame a swarm of hearts.
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