Release Date: Jan 22, 2013
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Until recently, the term Prog has been treated with a considerable level of disdain. Despite the notion that Punk killed it and consigned it to the bin marked “dinosaurs” (it didn’t) Prog has been bubbling away in the background quite nicely. Whether the rise of the bearded gentleman is directly related to increased song length in popular music is unclear, but of late there certainly seems to be a swing back towards the Prog-ethos of the late ’70s which claimed that longer was most certainly better.
It's a leaner, grittier iteration of Arbouretum that slowly lopes out of the starting blocks on this fifth full-length. Hints of highland twilight folk still colour the edges of the songs, but fuzzed-out bass lines and tub-thumping drums dominate the meat of the album. "The Promise" and "World Split Open" are two tracks that would easily fit on Now That's What I Call Stoner Rock, Vol 4.20, next to anything by labelmates White Hills or Wooden Shjips.
Calling something neo-classic rock might seem faintly ridiculous -- admittedly, it probably is. But the 21st century has served up a variety of those approaches in any number of corners, and Arbouretum's Coming Out of the Fog is the latest in something of a new long tradition. Things start on a more stately and stirring approach with "The Long Night" rather than, say, arena boogie, but the quality of Dave Heumann's singing voice and the warm feeling of the arrangement, not to mention the demi-shred soloing over the rhythm section's careful pace, make for a good listen.
Released in 2007, Arbouretum's sophomore album, Rites of Uncovering, put a darker, broodier spin on Americana. The album's opening track, "Signposts and Instruments" still stands as the Baltimore-based quartet's finest moment-- an ethereal dirge that seems far more otherworldly and bizarre than the its handful of slow-mo power chords should allow for. Delivered in an echo-laden whisper, singer/guitarist Dave Heumann imparted verses that sounded like the kind of stuff you'd find scrawled in a dream journal.
Over its career, Arbouretum has stretched its dark folk-rock roots in a variety of ways. There’s been sludge and doom and psych-rock and even a bit of prog. Playing with experimental structures and tricky lyrics has made the group hard to pin down, but they’ve benefited from exploring the heavier side of their sound, pushing into metal and letting front man Dave Heumann’s lengthy guitar solos lead the explorations.
It's while Dave Heumann's guitar takes flight into the outer reaches of the cosmos during the closing leg of 'The Promise' that a thought flashes through the mind like a cartoon lightning bolt: this is the album Neil Young and Crazy Horse should have delivered instead of the disappointing Psychedelic Pill. Layered with fifty shades of delay, Heumann's dexterous fretwork cascades with a joy and sense of freedom that's in all too short supply these days, as underneath lies a bedrock of droning, hypnotic bass and an ever-circling vortex of feedback. Arbouretum's touchstones of Will Oldham's Americana and Crazy Horse's sonic firepower remain firmly in place but it's with Coming Out Of The Fog, their fifth full-length release, that these hirsute psyche-rockers finally step out of the shadows for some well-deserved light.