Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CD Review: Hush Arbors/Arbouretum - Aureola

Hush Arbors /Arbouretum
(Thrill Jockey)

It's hard to explain why some bands can play one riff and it betrays a lack of imagination, while the same riff in someone else's hands can rock you to the core of your soul. Play an A chord, with a bounce down to G every four bars and it can either be a strong statement or a holding pattern until a real idea comes along.

Aureola, a collaboration between the bands Hush Arbors (aka Keith Wood) and Arbouretum never gets too complex, chugging on riffs ranging in size from one to three chords. I didn't fact check this, but most of them seem to be built around A, which sounds really great when it's either finger-picked or strummed, especially when there's some fuzz behind it. Maybe the difference is that these guys realize that when playing music as basic as this, you have to make it count, either with dynamics, extra musical trimmings or vocals. (Of course if they just got too baked to care, there's something to be said about the lack of inhibitions that comes with mind-altering substances, but that's not for me to say.)

Wood sings the first five songs and Arbouretum's Dave Heumann handles the remaining three. Wood has forged a prolific career under the Hush Arbors moniker and as a member of Six Organs of Admittance and Thurston Moore's touring band. His voice possesses something of a high warble but not in a self-conscious indie rocker sort of way. He sounds very self-assurred and that makes a strong opening with "Lowly Ghost." The bass has a non-sustaining (meaning "percussive") groove which goes well with the finger-picked acoustic guitar that establishes the foundation of the tune. "Prayer of Forgetfulness" follows with a bright, upbeat groove that gets this album off and running towards greatness. A strain of country filters into his other tracks, including a guitar riff straight out of Dylan's "I Want You," before Wood wraps up his side of the disc with some gothic folk.

This is when the vinyl format helps to play up the contrast (and compatability) between the two bands.

Considering that Arbouretum's three songs drone on longer than any that preceded it, the split between the acts can still be considered even. The distorted power chords come out in full force, with Heumann's vocals leading the way, not quite as fragile as Wood but gentle enough when necessary. A song like "Black Sun" might be simple in terms of its building blocks, but it's not really repetitive because subtle changes pop up as it moves along. The band gradually builds from a start of picked chords and gradually adds slow drums and fuzz bass that's impressive in its restrain. "St. Anthony's Fire" has the end-of-the-album blowout quality to it, and the frenzied guitar solos bear this out.

File this one under Sleeper of the Year. It snuck up on me and now I can't get it out of my mind.


Concep said...

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SEO said...

Was fabulous! Was able to be here for the full festival, wonderful workshops and shows in a lovely and passionate town. Ole!
Jodhpuri Suit