First Came Love, Then Came the Tree finds Hall of Fame further refining their lo-fi, avant-drone aesthetic, adding more warmth, melody, and accessibility to their vocal and instrumental pieces. This doesn't make their music any less intriguing, however -- like their 1996 self-titled album, First Came Love ... covers 11 songs in 34 minutes, yet each of the pieces is more complex and expansive than its length would suggest. The six-minute anti-epic "Little Horsey Rider" ambles along on gentle drones and an almost pastoral violin. Though it builds slightly in volume and atonality as it goes, its gentle drift reaffirms that Hall of Fame's music is more about the trip than the destination. Other delicately hypnotic yet uneasy songs, such as the album closer "Angelski" and "Come on Baby, Light My Fire," hang like a fog, immersing the listener in the group's sensuous melodies and lo-fi production values. Indeed, the simmering, Krautrock-influenced "Vermillion," which mixes murky bass and guitar with tinny, crackling percussion, is a perfect example of how Hall of Fame uses lo-fi as an artistic choice, not necessarily because they weren't able to make the album sound cleaner because they lacked the funds or ability. The deliberately grainy sound leads to other interesting textures, such as the strangely watery percussion and insistent thumb piano on "The Hubris of the Dream Input-Applique," which sounds like an avant-garde gamelan; likewise, the rattling, asymmetrical percussion on tracks like "Rival" and "VF" give them a slightly exotic tinge. First Came Love, Then Came the Tree's more experimental moments are balanced by the group's relatively poppy vocal-based songs, which range from Samara Labriski's dreamy, hushed "Fatter Leaner" and "Paper Thin" to the near-traditional ballad "Lucifer." While the album isn't a big departure from Hall of Fame's other work, First Came Love, Then Came the Tree is just that much more inviting, making it a good introduction to their fascinating sound.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares