The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


A review of the album Trees Dream in Algebra by C O D E S

Review Snapshot:  A flawless debut for Dublin 4 piece C O D E S; Trees Dream in Algebra is one of those rare albums where the realisation matches the vision.   With its dreamy arrangements, soaring vocal harmonies and often heart stopping lyrics, Trees Dream in Algebra is the best Irish record in years.  

The Cluas Verdict? 9.5 out of 10

CODESFull Review:
When I was given access to Trees Dream in Algebra for the first time, I must admit, I was a little nervous.  As anyone who knows me or who reads CLUAS will know, I've been raving about C O D E S for a long time now.  Could their debut record possibly live up to my expectations; would it match the energy and magic of their live shows?  I shouldn't have worried.  Trees Dream in Algebra is simply breathtaking. 

Indeed, the only element of this record that is more impressive than the scale and scope of its vision is its execution.  Then again, Trees Dream in Algebra was recorded in the UK and mixed in New Zealand with Manic Street Preachers producer Greg Haver and mastered in New York by Greg Calbi (U2, Interpol, Kings of Leon) so you wouldn't expect the production quality to be anything flawless.  However, this record blends so seamlessly that it is impossible to imagine the track listing being in any other order. 

Those of you who have seen C O D E S live will be very familiar with the opening two tracks, Malfunctions and recent single This is Goodbye, as they are also used to open the band's live set. This is Goodbye, with its mix of soaring vocals, powerful melody and delicate lyrics, sets the tone for the rest of the album.  Trees Dream in Algebra is an album drenched in themes of love, of heartbreak, and laced with those moments where the lines between reality and dreams become blurred.

I once described C O D E S' music as 'grandiose sonic landscapes painted in painstakingly minute detail' and this is very evident throughout the album but especially on title track In Algebra and the stunning instrumental Telos.  I've never been one think about such things but Telos is so captivating, so beautiful, so, well, appropriate (being the Greek for end), that I can't think of a better song to have played at my funeral.  Failing that, it could always soundtrack the end of the world, whichever comes first. 

It is almost impossible to pick a stand-out track from this record.  There are so many potential singles, Memorial, Starry Eyed, In Algebra, Our Mysteries and Cities, not to mention previous singles such as This is Goodbye, Guided by Ghosts and current single You Are Here.  Indeed, the only fault that I can find with this record is that it doesn't contain C O D E S first single Edith.  It would appear she has died, which is a pity, but there are more than enough quality songs on Trees Dream in Algebra to recover from the loss very quickly.

There are times in this business when you can have really high expectations of a band and, more often than not, they find it impossible to live up to those lofty ambitions.  With Trees Dream in Algebra, C O D E S have broken the mould.  It is a stunning debut; full of intimacy and energy and places C O D E S firmly at the top of Ireland's most exciting and interesting bands.  It is not just likely to be the best record you will hear this year (and that's saying something given the quality of Irish music released this year) but, in 10 years time, when CLUAS is putting together its list of best Irish albums from its second decade in existence, I can't see any reason why Trees Dream in Algebra won't be close to the top.  

Steve O'Rourke

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