Treetop Flyers are not the first band to sound like they come from another era and they certainly won’t be the last; wearing influences like The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding and Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison firmly on their sleeves, in Flyerville every day could be yesterday.
This eponymous release is their third – following on from 2013’s The Mountain Moves and its follow up, the much more diverting Palomino. In between them, the quintet suffered some by now all too common label and finance problems, but to their credit the Treetop Flyers LP finds them skating through the same carefree, mellow haze that long-term fans should have become accustomed to.
It’s bookended by two instrumentals, firstly the arcane country dreamscape of opener Fleadrop and then closing with the similarly introverted, rolling piano slip of Door 14. Neither could be classed as either a hello or a farewell, but by reading between the lines it’s evident that the band are subtly underlining a richness of musical grain that belies dropping into easy boxes.
The focal point between them loops around singer Reid Morrison’s slightly ragged, throwback voice, a set of pipes which belong in some Toledo bar from the nineteen-seventies. His crushed, lilting tone lends Sweet Greens And Blues a waxy, authentic soulfulness that feels like a warm night after sunshine, while It’s Hard To Understand is less frantic but still sparkles with a genuine affection for the movement’s timeless and elemental when-a-man-loves-a-woman roots.
It’s an approach that neither Morrison nor his bandmates deviate much from, a comfortable feeling of stasis which gifts songs like the gently melancholic Needles and the more uptempo Warning Bell armfuls of the sort of recherche charm which Britons have become suckers for, although I Knew I’d Find You hints more darkly at struggles with depression: ‘And I’ve been walking the black dog/He’s a needy one/And he’s wasting my time’.
Depending on your perspective, deviations from this careful norm will either be unwanted breaks in mood or a vital distraction – either way there’s no escaping the fact that when it’s messed with Treetop Flyers comes into its own; the eight-minutes-plus of Art Of Deception isn’t just a time anomaly but, after a while, morphs into an extended psychedelic jam, while Kooky Clothes also flies in the face of the surrounding regalia, a desultory fork in a road they’d do well to explore further in the future.
Either of these are in their own way traces of the bolder, more expressive approach that made Palomino so full of rich promise. That well seems drier this time round; while Treetop Flyers are faithful to the role of artisans, this record doesn’t ask the listener questions in the way its predecessor did – and visions of the past after all still lie within the perspective of the beholder.