Album Review: Tree House – Into the Ocean EP

By on Monday, 25th September 2017 at 12:00 pm

TreeHouse Into the Ocean coverWe at TGTF have never written before about London-based electronic musician Will Fortna, but if you’re a particularly astute reader, you might have spied a photo of him here. Multi-instrumentalist Fortna travelled to America last year for SXSW 2016, as touring bass player for alt-pop singer/songwriter Oscar. Our own Editor Mary captured Oscar and Fortna in action that year at the Huw Stephens and PRS for Music Showcase.

Earlier this month, Will Fortna released a new EP of his own original music, titled ‘Into the Ocean’, under the moniker Tree House. The Tree House project began several years ago, when Fortna was living in Brooklyn and teaching himself to compose and play music in a windowless loft. Now living in London and finishing a course of study in American History and Ethnomusicology, Fortna has expanded his compositional style to encompass a wide range of musical influences, most notably American minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Fortna does the singing and much of instrument playing himself, but the EP does feature a few colleagues from his live band, including Alfie Long on bass, Izaak Binet on keyboards, Joel Burton on drums, and Tom Wells on electric guitar.

Opening track ‘Nonsense’ introduces the EP with an immediate smooth jazz feel, centered around a simple, repeated keyboard motif. Fortna’s vocals are equally smooth, his slightly breathy timbre finding just enough traction to keep his lyrics from being lost in the instrumental underlay. “There’s times we get caught up in top down love / and there’s times reality seems so far gone,” he sings, seemingly from a distance, as if the words might have been an afterthought to the musical composition.

Several of the compositions on ‘Into the Ocean’ naturally invoke the ideas of water and swimming, including the EP’s first single ‘Water Fountain’. More slick and polished, this track also takes a slightly darker tone, as Fortna invites us to “take a deeper step into the tide.” He shows here that he isn’t afraid to let a musical idea evolve organically, taking the first instrumental bridge into delicate, Eastern harmonies before kicking back into the shuffling beat of the verse, then into a warmer, mellower second interlude.

The sunny, laid-back sound of ‘Warm Blue Feeling’ is a nice mid-album change of pace, with a gently swaying rhythm and Afrobeat-style guitars. Fortna’s lyrics are a bit less cerebral here as well, as he spends an idle moment enjoying “the sound of crickets dancing all around” and “the warm blue feeling of letting go.”

Early Tree House composition ‘Classical Symphony’ showcases Fortna’s emphasis on rhythm and uncomplicated instrumental textures. The simplified instrumental arrangement puts more focus both on his singing voice and on his lyrics, which are a bit ironic here as he declares, “I never had the patience for classical symphony.” Final and eponymous track ‘Into the Ocean’, by contrast, demonstrates Fortna’s gained expertise in counterpoint and instrumental arranging. The string introduction is mildly reminiscent of Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’, and the initially disconnected percussion grows into a steadier back beat as the song progresses. Fortna’s vocals excel here, particularly in the echoing and open-ended final refrain.

Decidedly intellectual in approach and eclectic in its influences, ‘Into the Ocean’ is a strong initial effort from Will Fortna. His ongoing musical studies and genuine interest in a wide variety of musical styles are sure to shape his future endeavours, as well as refining his technical and compositional skills. In the meantime, the songs presented here are a pleasurable and intriguing first listen.


Tree House’s debut EP ‘Into the Ocean’ is available now from Brighton indie label Memorials of Distinction. You can stream or purchase the EP on Bandcamp right through here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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