Review ·

A collage of images, including a deer, an Atlantic landscape, and a purple ear, dominates the cover of Tim Exile’s third album, Listening Tree. This oddball mélange, which appears to be floating somewhere in outer space, has sprung forth from the ground and is presumably a visual embodiment of the album’s title. It’s reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s embarrassing flop sci-fi feature The Fountain, and the album’s thematic content also orbits a similar universe to that film. It’s difficult not to picture bald Hugh Jackman zipping through the universe in a bubble as Exile (real name: Tim Shaw) sings: “I’m stuck in the fast shifting space where gravity disappears/I’m orbiting some random place that I haven’t seen for years” (from “Family Galaxy”).

Shaw is an electronic musician with a penchant for the speedy rhythms of gabba, breakcore and jungle. On Listening Tree, his most overtly pop record yet, he’s filtered all these influences into a more refined sound that inhabits a middle ground located somewhere between ‘80s synthpop (Blancmange, Depeche Mode) and contemporary electronica (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher).

This approach has certainly made Shaw’s music more palatable, but his tinkering in the studio (he’s an accomplished tech head; just check out this interview and try to stay awake) has mostly drained his music of any emotional resonance. He’s an adept programmer, but it often sounds like he’s over thinking songs and squeezing all the sentiment out of his music in the process. Couple this with a series of dispassionate and often embarrassing lyrics, and Listening Tree falls stone cold flat on too many occasions.

“Fortress” is the low point of the record, with Shaw bellowing out lines like an army general. “Bring in the archaeologists to unearth your heritage,” he barks, while an overly complicated backing track, which sounds like several songs battling for attention like petulant children, stutters and squelches behind him. At the other end of the Listening Tree spectrum, “Pay Tomorrow” offers brief respite by occasionally stripping away all the musical clutter. It’s reminiscent of Heaven 17’s anti-capitalist tracts from Penthouse and Pavement, but clipped of all the lyrical nouse and knowledge of the framework of pop that makes that album an enduring pleasure.

The two instrumental tracks, “There’s Nothing Left of Me But Her and This” and “When Every Day’s a Number” provide welcome respite from Shaw’s bad Phil Oakey impression, but even they can do little to rescue Listening Tree from decelerating in interest as it progresses. Shaw is a skilled arranger, but his music lacks the originality, ideas and emotional content that are so often absent from the work of musicians who are extremely skilled at their craft. To go forward, he needs to unlearn everything he knows to turn proficiency into passion.






Heartless Bastards - The Mountain Deer Tick Born On Flag Day

i've just listened to this album and i think its actually amazing. I think your review is way off.. i was surprised to find it.. its very 'out there' and quite challenging at times.. but what im hearing you are totally not describing above.. im hearing a heap load of originality, amazing song writing and really interesting lyrics .. i actually think his voice sounds pretty great on most of the tracks too.. but then again, i really like the Fountain Film .. :0) ... the way you write its like its YOU who is emotionally void.



Tim Exile is amazing technician, his soundwarping and Reaktor programming skills are only second to his lack of real songwriting talent. His planet-u albums are a un-listeneable mess of computer warping beats.

This album is basically a last attempt to salvage his recording career by going new wave


Listening Tree is already being hailed by many people as "The worst album Warp have ever released”

Used copies of the CD are already being dumped at amazon dor com for less than $2, only weeks after the album was released!

Enuff said.


"Listening Tree is already being hailed by many people as "The worst album Warp have ever released.”

ha! many people! who cares?

john.x, you are clearly a freethinker.

-more than too many people

too many people

this review is absolutely ignorant, uneducated, close minded, and ridiculous. the reviewer/author here needs to take some time away from the top 40 radio stations and other billionaire-guy driven
'music' of would-be comparison, as this record is the pure and simple embodiment of genius. there are no other terms of description here, what has been created by Tim Exile blurs the lines between an indefinable amount of very different influences and styles, all the while carrying the grace and accessibility of synth-pop. no, i lied, i believe there is a possible other term; visionary.

Robert Hix

Get up and move around!! You'll never see what's over the horizon til you do.

Tim Exile

Yes, this record is amazing, your review is really dull, void and pointless...

no offense .


Yawn. Unimaginative bitching by numbers, the likes of which I haven't read since Sounds' heyday. Whatever you think of TIm's music, it's worth more than this tedious character assassination. Hey ho.


album was amazing. brilliant, i am glad someone finally stepped up to the plate.



"Bitching by numbers" sums it up pretty well.
On the other hand, "Listening Tree" is the most exciting record I've heard in a long time and I hope I can snap it up for $2. Better yet, Tim gives up on record companies and goes Cash Music!


Track of the year, in my book.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Kadgi/DSC04569.JPG Kadgi

Exactly what i was thinking Christian, hell yeah i can get it for 2 dollars now. One of my albums of the year.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Kadgi/DSC04569.JPG Kadgi

I had a few problems in the transition from Tim's previous work to this, but once I got used to it, I realised it is quite amazing. The sound design is wonderful like his previous work. Although some of it may not be lyrical perfection, It's a bold and intriguing move and a brilliant foray lyrical-based music.
I found this review to be extremely closed minded, with a tone reminiscent of a personal attack.


Is it me or do you have to be a pretentious and miserable soul, void of all creativity and enthusiasm, in order to call yourself a "music critic" Whoever this Nick Neyland guy is, needs to cheer up and realize his perception is seething with negativity, and in contrast the album itself is resonating with brilliant positivity. And also, I can't help but point out that if the only examples of electronic musicians you can compare Tim's work too, is limited to Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, then you should really do your homework before publicly defaming an artist's work. I didn't hear a thing on Listening Tree that wasn't the sound of Tim Exile. And I own EVERYTHING RDJ and Jenkinson have released. Listening Tree is a groundbreaking album "."

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Exiternill/website-avatar_squarejpg.jpg Exiternill

This album is actually f*cking genius. The fact that when someone tries to truly express and create, they are immediately shot down is disgusting. Every aspect of this album blows my mind. The sounds he uses are extremely unique to him, as is the scales he uses. The polyrhythm tempo changes and extremely intricate rhythmic patterns used throughout the album are nothing less that amazing. Even the lyrics are fantastic. It's just like the mainstream to shun such an incredible piece of art. Kudos Tim Exile, motherf*cking kudos.


What a pathetic, undeserved review.. This is actually a brilliant album, man. I feel sorry for you not being able to appreciate its depth and uniqueness.


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