Alison Statton and Spike Williams followed up their pleasant first album, Tidal Blues, with The Shady Tree, a striking home recording effort done with two guests, Dale Reynolds on Welsh harp and Statton's old Young Marble Giants stalwart Phil Moxham on bass. Statton's light, gentle, but still at heart strong singing remains excellent, following on from both Tidal Blues and her work with Ian Devine. Williams, meanwhile, starts the album with a brisk but soothing synth melody loop, which contrasted with Statton's voice as the song "Where to Start" fully develops, showing how The Shady Tree is a distinctly different affair from the debut. Where Tidal Blues was a gently lively guitar-based work, on this song there is more texture and more pastoral flow, almost suggesting an analogue to the work of Ultramarine. It's a lovely blend and entrancing way to begin the album, and from there The Shady Tree turns out in the end to be a stronger effort than Tidal Blues. The musicians experiment with drones and textures throughout, adding a depth and range to Statton's lovely core of careful observation and reflection. Without returning to the time of Colossal Youth in singing style, she again here captures the feeling of sudden realization and detail so beautifully. Notably, all four performers recorded their parts separately, but everything comes together in the mix, while Williams' own obsession with mathematical structures adds to the experimental nature of the album without rendering it an insular exercise. Sonically one can hear parallels to acts like Seefeel in its later years or where Boards of Canada would end up, but ultimately the sheer variety shown is the key keeping this almost truly its own unique effort. Statton's singing over different collages of lighter or darker veins not only provides the melodic core for each piece but also makes each song almost seem like its own separate short story. Whether it's the buried anthemic surge of "Blind Faith" or the calm keyboard buzz of "The Seed Remains," The Shady Tree contains many marvels. LTM's reissue adds no bonus tracks, for once -- but frankly, an album this inspired needs no further justification for listening.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett