Personnel: Liz Seal (vocals); Steve Biolik (saxophone); Chris Dunne (drums).
Recording information: Woodbine Street Studio, Leamington Spa (1982).
Initially released in 1983, The Trees and the Villages was the only proper full-length by Bron Area, a British post-punk group with ties to Eyeless in Gaza. The album was recorded near the end of their brief lifespan, during which they had shifted from gloomy, primitive lo-fi to more angular, aggressive rock to a more reserved, focused style. The songs are often abstract and rarely seem forceful, and while they seem to drift at times, closer listening reveals grander ambitions. Likewise, while the album might seem dark (or at least shadowy) on the surface, there are wisps of hope and sunshine that keep them from sounding too bleak and depressing. The songs range from moody pieces with shimmering organs or chiming acoustic guitars to the vastly more upbeat "As Midday Screams." A few numbers incorporate saxophone, and others include distant, field recording-like voices in the mix. At times, the lyrics are haunting and surreal, as in "Caught Then Drowned Affection" ("In trying to forget the past, I have resurrected you"). The album's first-ever CD reissue arrived in 2016, and it included two bonus tracks from a previous single, including what may have been their signature song, the steadfastly optimistic "You Would Be Amazed," as well as the galloping, keyboard-drenched "Different Phrases." The album is a bit of a hidden gem and may be somewhat of an acquired taste, but it's worth seeking out. ~ Paul Simpson