Wild Mercury Sound

Arbouretum: Club Uncut, London Lexington, July 27, 2009

John Mulvey

One of the best shows I think we’ve hosted at Club Uncut last night, thanks to Baltimore’s regal Arbouretum. I raved about their third album, “Song Of The Pearl”, back at the start of the year, and from the grand start of “Another Hiding Place” onwards, it’s clear they’re an unassumingly wonderful band.

Last time, I mentioned plenty about Crazy Horse, Richard Thompson and Television, and all that holds good live, especially in the discreet virtuosity with which Dave Heumann and Steve Strohmeier grapple with their guitars. The churning tempos might be pure Crazy Horse, but there’s a real nimbleness to these jams that keeps bringing to mind ’69 vintage Grateful Dead, not least because a handful of these songs threaten to gravitate towards “Dark Star” as they progress.

The likes of “Another Hiding Place” and the amazing “False Spring” have genetic affinities with British folk-rock, too, but, in common with some of that Fairport Convention reunion I blogged about last week, Arbouretum’s music is far removed from the feyness that often implies. Listening to the way Heumann carries a song, I was reminded of something I wrote in a review of Richard Thompson’s last solo album, “Sweet Warrior”: “These remain, ostensibly, rock songs underpinned by the cadences of folk, delivered by a stern and occasionally rather wry man who plays guitar with a fearsome penetrative clarity.”

That makes sense for Heumann and Arbouretum, too, though there’s a rich, psychedelic thickness to what they do which is generally outside Thompson’s comparatively austere remit. By the end, unless I was having auditory hallucinations, they appear to have located a hitherto underexposed cosmic potential in Flanagan & Allen’s “Underneath The Arches”, investing it with all the bent vigour of “Marquee Moon”. You can hear that, and plenty more, at their Myspace, incidentally.

An incredible band - and thanks, too, to the supports Kurran & The Wolfnotes and The Goldheart Assembly; keep an eye out for the latter especially, one of those accomplished little British bands that come along every few years sounding, however accidentally, not unlike The Jayhawks. You still may have a chance to catch Arbouretum this week, by the way; I really can’t recommend them enough.

Tuesday, July 28: Winchester, The Railway
Wednesday, July 29: Colchester, Colchester Arts Centre
Thursday, July 30: Manchester, Night & Day


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