January may have continued for what seemed like forever and the long, cold nights aren’t letting up anytime soon. But winter isn’t all doom and gloom. For London-based label and collective Treehouse 707, winter is the inspiration for their latest LP, ‘Quiet’. Running at a lengthy 17 tracks, the record evokes its titular mood through hazy drum machine beats, soothing jazz samples, and an ever-present tinkling of Rhodes keys.
The collective clearly takes inspiration from the clattering swing of J Dilla productions, the melodic strength of Nujabes, and the weed-infused funk of Knxwledge tracks – all traits which serve the sketch-like mixtape format well. Featuring their roster of artists, including New York-based Killer Bee, West Coast neo-soul producer Ckwnce, and London’s own AJMW, ‘Quiet’ is a transatlantic endeavour.
Opening number, ‘4 Reel’ by Killer Bee takes a classic pitched-up R&B vocal sample over a rumbling bass drum and jazz keys, redolent of early Kaytranada. Much of the record continues in the same jazz-hip- hop vein, with following number, el.’s ‘Dep-Avrl’, pairing programmed drums with looped horn samples, Ckwnce going for a pure Rhodes-Dilla combination on ‘Thingswedo’, and Fanshore & Tropic placing a baritone flow over a pacifying guitar line.
While ‘Quiet’ makes for a consistent listening experience, the tonal similarities from one track to the next can often mean the record plays as a background presence, struggling to make itself heard. The short two-minute formats of chief’s ‘Early Morning’, el.’s ‘Dep-Avrl’, and Huez’s ‘Story Lounge’, for instance, blend into one another as pleasing interludes without coming across as finished pieces in their own right.
It is instead tracks like Delicasteez & Sachi’s ‘Beats For You’, featuring Sachi’s husky vocals and languorous songwriting that remain memorable. Equally, instrumentals are just as capable, such as LETJOUX and quickly quickly’s ‘Shangri La’ with its gospel piano line and MFakka’s Grant Green-inspired soporific closing number ‘Silly’, both of which stray from a single idea into a nuanced exploration of downbeat atmospheres.
Ultimately, ‘Quiet’ plays like a love letter to late night/early morning trawls through the online archives of Soundcloud beat-makers, letting looped shorts run into one another as dawn breaks or night carries on. It’s a showcase of promising, largely unheard artists who are bound to release formidable works in their own right and Treehouse 707 has incubated this nascent talent, as all good labels should.
Words: Ammar Kalia
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