Open the cover of The Treat’s sprawling new double CD and you will see the band's own weapons of mass construction. An impressive array of old and newguitars and instruments ranging from Fender to sitar and bongos to didgeridoos (and from such countries as Africa to India) help give an indication of the eclecticism on offer within.
Last year I caught up with The Treat and reviewed their highly original album Phonography. I wrote, "it will be interesting to see where they take it from here". So, has my own question been answered on this ambitious release, Audio Verite/Deceptive Blends?
Straight away my intrigue is made deeper by the fact that each disc is further divided into what would have been ‘sides’, in the days of good old vinyl. The four ‘sides’ are in fact themes, starting with 'Side Rock' and the anthemic “This Is The One”. However, you will soon learn that you can’t second guess this band and when the oddball “Showtime” kicks in you realize it’s going to be an intriguing ride.
“Drawing Lines” draws its own lines from neo-punk whilst “On The Waterfront”, complete with melodica solo, takes us off in a more gentle direction of lazy days down by the river. Listen closely and you can hear that the display of instruments is no mere showcase and each track introduces something new and colourful from the collection.
The hooky rockabilly of “For A Reason” leads on into 'Side Acoustic' (same disc, different section) and a track called “Beautiful Way”. Its arrival signals another side-step within this journey. “Cycles” tackles the never ending world of senseless politics, conflict, and war with a set of lyrics set within a Middle-Eastern vibe. Meanwhile the delicately performed instrumental “Sweet Jasmine” shimmers nicely.
The retro sounding “By The Sea”, and “The Dragon’s Den” bring the acoustic side of the Audio Verite section to a close with two well told storybook songs. Changing discs we have Deceptive Blends, with the first theme being 'Side Electric', which arrives within a fog of psychedelia.
“Anger Management” captures the rage and anxiety of its title. The mystical “Silent Voices” weaves a smoky vibe as one of the album’s stronger offerings.
The last section, 'Side Experiment', opens with the politically inspired “Citizens Of The World” which strums its way like a protest song from a different era whilst sadly reminding us that nothing ever really changes. “The Art Of Deception” has a village green quirky Englishness about it.
However, another twist takes us to the deep south with a funky “Fan The Flames”. The persistent “Little Fly” made his way into the studio and onto the album, before happily flying off to annoy another day.
'Side Experiment' ends the album with the colourful “In My Own Time” which comes complete with an excellent first take trumpet solo by Chris Lewis. One of the best songs on the album, it’s tucked away at the end leaving a strong impression.
I bet my hideous overdraft on the fact that the word ‘ambitious’ will crop up on the vast majority of reviews for this album. The album is also quirky, undeniably eclectic, creative, idiosyncratic, indulgent, brave, experimental, and yes, I have to agree, ambitious.
It draws firstly from a huge range of influences, utilizes a vast collection of instruments, and is somewhat reflective of the constantly changing world in which we live. Its presentation in sections is proudly retro with its four sides grouped around their themes and yet it is an album that also gives it all a contemporary twist.
It represents, as guitarist, composer, and producer of The Treat, Mike Hyder says, 'a three and half year musical collage'. Inevitably some parts of the whole will work better for some than others. It is most definitely an album by a band following their muse and one that is clearly destined to divide opinion.
It is also just what its title promises it to be, and is ever changing, often promising, sometimes frustrating, always surprising, occasionally disappointing, yet never predictable.
In an age when it is all but impossible to explore boundaries that have already been pushed countless times before, The Treat have decided to attempt to do just that. They have bravely dived in, gone with their instincts, and created a diverse musical experiment that expands some of the signs contained within Phonography.
As a result my question of ‘where next’ has been somewhat torn up and thrown into a swirling wind with this wholly individual project. Now, I am left asking exactly the same question for next time. One thing for sure is that it won’t be easy to predict.
Have a look and a listen on the band's website.