RM Hubbert’s fourth album gives further evidence as to why he is one of Scotland’s best-loved and increasingly vital artists.
Telling the Trees sees Hubbert return to Chemikal’s Paul Savage for production duties, with whom he worked closely on 2013’s Breaks & Bone and 2012’s SAY award-winning Thirteen Lost and Found.
The latter was entirely collaborative and saw Hubby write and reconnect with old friends, including Aidan Moffat and Alex Kapranos, reputedly crafting songs organically within six-hour writing sessions to powerful effect.
In contrast, Telling the Trees is born of entirely fresh connections.
Hubbert created initial ideas specifically for each artist after a period of intense binge listening and the resulting tracks were fleshed out over the internet, foregoing physical interaction.
It is a sign of Hubbert’s genius that his raw response to each of the artists has provided each of them with a canvas upon which to create some of their best work.
The album traverses Hubbert’s previous balancing act of subtlety and virtuosity, in both musical and lyrical content – and every collaborator, to their credit, succeeds in emphasising varying nuances within this framework.
Rising literary star, Anneliese Mackintosh’s lyrics in ‘The Dinosaur Where We Fell in Love’ are an apt introduction to the temporal fluidity in Hubbert’s contemporary approach to flamenco and classical guitar, which simultaneously drives you to pick up the nearest guitar and never touch one again.
The more production-heavy tracks with Anneke Kampman, Helen Marnie and Sarah J Stanley give the album a rejuvenating nudge in all the right places, creating some of Trees’ most inventive moments; also, ‘Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ might just be the best song name of the year so far.
Instrumental, ‘KAS’, is a triumph of expression and astounding achievement of symbiosis with Aby Vuilliamy’s viola, which she uses to channel emotions laid entirely bare.
Possibly the most chill-inducing moments on Trees include Kathryn Joseph and Martha Ffion.
Somehow, every collaborator has hit well above the mark, however ‘The Dog’ especially suggests a paring worthy of future endeavours; emotive guitar and Joseph’s visceral lyrics conjure a truly ethereal listening experience.
History will certainly be kind to RM Hubbert and Telling the Trees adds new branches to a discography firmly rooted in the upper echelons of Scottish music.
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Words: Andy Gregory