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Various Artists

Presence Under the Tree

(Attacknine; US: 14 Nov 2006; UK: 5 Feb 2007)

Presence Under the Tree is a double-CD collection of starry-eyed, dreampoppy, vaguely folkish indie, one disc labelled Twilight (the more robust) and the other Starlight (the more ghostlike). Newcomers to the Attacknine label will be intrigued but those already in the know should be interested as well—many of these songs are alternative versions, live recordings, and so on, in other words, material that hasn’t already appeared on the bands’ albums. Others come from the “Friends”, groups that aren’t on the label’s roster. Owl Bear starts things off with a gather-‘round acoustic number called “I See Wings”, and The White Lodge ends them with “Friends Please Come Home”, a series of atmospheric descents that sound like the work of a less weird Sigur Ros. An odour of Mazzy Star drifts to the surface here and there; Winter Flowers’ “Misty Morningland” exhales delicately crimped violets; and there is one song in French from a Quebec band named Cri du Chat. Gothic drones slide across their lyrics and the only word I could hear clearly at first was, “‘ello… ‘ello… ‘ello.”  At its best moments Presence is beautiful; at its worst it is never less than good. Recommended.

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