Coming Out Of The Fog
, January 22nd, 2013 12:38
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. Last year's split release with Hush Arbours (Aureola) found the band refining their sound with a move to heavier yet more streamlined climes and the progress continues with this latest collection.
As evidenced by 'Renouncer', Arbouretum are still in thrall to the classic rock structure of the 70s but there's a greater economy at play here than at any point in their career. Rather than surrendering to meandering and directionless shredding, Arbouretum have opted for a less-is-more strategy and in the process have created a greater sense of drama and musical storytelling that gets straight to the point. It certainly works in the band's favour as Dave Heumann tackles the despair of human existence with a stiff determination rather than hair-pulling angst. Restrictions in time and narrative have certainly proved to be the mother of invention.
There are, of course, a few caveats. Heumann frequently employs Ozzy Osbourne's technique of shadowing the guitar parts in lieu of a vocal melody and on occasions the album feels too one-paced. But these are minor gripes and the signs for future expansion are posted throughout. 'Oceans Don't Sing' finds Arbouretum making a convincing foray into country-infused balladry while the closing title track's hauntingly tender tones display convincingly a side to the band that may well be central to their future endeavours.
Coming Out Of The Fog is an album of light and shade and one that benefits more from what's not in it than is. It's a brave band that reigns in its most indulgent tendencies but in erecting their own barriers in their areas of play, Arbouretum have found new ways to manoeuvre and innovate in a medium bound by a set of firm rules and traditions.