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Music Review: Arbouretum – Song Of The Pearl

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When I first heard Arbouretum’s 2007 album Rites Of Uncovering I simply could not play it often enough. They had managed to mesh together a brilliant patchwork of rock riffing and dark folk melody. The result was a gem of an album that really deserved wider recognition.

Those already in the know will be able to identify with my eager anticipation of their third release, Song Of The Pearl. Released today on Thrill Jockey Records, Arbouretum had set themselves a high standard to live up to. The good news is they have achieved just that and have come up with another truly evocative album.

Arbouretum formed in late 2002 to supply an outlet for the songwriting of guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann. Their debut album Long Live The Well-Doer signalled a period of personnel changes that finally morphed into the breakthrough sound of Rites Of Uncovering.

Now with Song Of The Pearl they again succeeded in locking me in from the off with the magnificent acid drenched “False Spring”. Employing the string arrangements of ex-member Walker Teret, they instantly draw down on those intoxicating Celtic flavours in a track that is so very hard to let go.

It’s not often I play an album and get locked into the very first track, unable to move off the blocks. With Song Of A Pearl and this opening it’s all but impossible not to.

There is a huge sense of maturity radiating from the songwriting. It reoccurs time and time again. Listen to the wonderfully atmospheric “Down By The Fall Line” as living proof that this band are something special. In truth though it is just one track within a set list of equally triumphant offerings.

The production of the majestic “False Spring” is enriched with blurred acoustic, and psychedelic fuelled guitar riffs that give way to the occasional burst of sonic fireworks. “Another Hiding Place” follows on as only a track of undeniable quality could.

The gorgeous title track displays the care that has been poured into the album with a chiming guitar, set above a song which again draws from the deep well of the best of British folk. “Thin Dominion” grinds in with a sense of immediacy and purpose before slowly burning a trail of powerful images. “Infinite Corridors” is soaked in the vibe of heavy rock.

Dave Heumann’s guitar burns nicely with that of Steve Strohmeier. Meanwhile Corey Allender’s bass picks out perfectly positioned lines and drummer Daniel Franz cleverly adds to the textures.

The drive created by “Thin Dominion” is built upon by the psychedelic glory that is “Infinite Corridors”. “The Midnight Cry” is a tour de force of hard edged rock Arbouretum style. Duelling guitars, distorted riffs, and a pounding beat propel the track forever forward.

So locked into this album was I that it took me a while to realize that the last track “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” was a Dylan cover. So sudden was the realization that I sought out the original to thankfully find that I could be excused a little with this all but unrecognizable version. It provides a perfectly balanced end to the album.

All too often anticipation can weigh heavily against realization. In this case the only things that weighs heavy are the conviction within the songwriting and the spiralling sonic smoulder that is Arbouretum.

Magnificent stuff.

To hear more visit the bands MySpace page.

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About Jeff Perkins