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Taken by Trees - East of Eden

Released on Rough Trade, 9/8/09

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

If you want music to listen to while meditating or during yoga class, Taken by Trees may be just the band for you. If youíre less New Age inclined, you might find yourself a little confused. Taken by Trees are a love-them-or-hate-them kind of band. Gentle, melodic, rather soothing, they seem more suited to a mountain retreat than to your average music venue.

With musical elements drawn from the subcontinent (the album was recorded in Pakistan with the help of Sufi musicians), Taken by Trees might easily be accused of appropriation. Itís the Peter Gabriel/Paul Simon debate all over again -- by featuring Sufi melodies, for example, are Taken by Trees offering this kind of music valuable exposure to a new audience, or are they exploiting it to make a buck?

Itís a pretty sound that they create, no doubt about that. Thereís some serious musicianship going on too -- rhythms are complex and subtle, melodies interweave and different elements are carefully fused into a cohesive whole. Swedish vocalist Victoria Bergsman, formerly of The Concretes, has a beautiful voice, sweet and emotive, and some of the guitar work is quietly spectacular.

There are lots of things to like about East of Eden. The lyrics are charming, the production is crisp and clear as a bell, and those who love intricate rhythms will be delighted by the technical skill on display here. The question of whether or not itís okay for a Western woman to so blatantly borrow elements from the music of another culture, and how you feel about that, may in the end determine how you feel about East of Eden. On a purely musical level, though, itís a lovely album.