Wild Mercury Sound

The Coil Sea: "The Coil Sea"

John Mulvey

In spite of being a big fan of the last couple of Arbouretum albums – and also happily aware of Dave Heumann’s jobbing work in the past with Will Oldham and so on – I’ve been inexplicably useless at checking out one or two of his sidelines. Notably, that is, the band Human Bell he steers with one of the guys from Lungfish (not Daniel Higgs, I should say).

I’m not, however, sleeping on Heumann’s latest project, The Coil Sea; a pretty free-flowing jamming unit set up with a bunch of other Baltimore musicians in the wake of Arbouretum’s 2009 tour. A satisfyingly meandering four-tracker, “The Coil Sea” begins in the vicinity of where Arbouretum left off. “Abyssinia” is serpentine, torpid psych with Heumann providing frictional improvisations over a staunch Crazy Horse plod.

From thereon in, though, things get distinctly looser, and while the formal, folkish songwriting style of Arbouretum disappears, Heumann’s impressive grasp of technique and atmosphere remains. “Dolphins In The Coil Sea” – at 11 and a half minutes, the longest jam here by a nose – was conceived as a “homage” to Sonny Sharrock, signposted by the clarion call of Heumann’s first riff.

If there’s a more contemporary reference for the gripping, jazzy exploration that follows, though, it’s probably Nels Cline, who definitely shares a fondness for a certain high-end, needling freestyling. It’s a terrific display of invention, virtuosity and stamina, made even better by the way Heumann’s ad hoc bandmates (especially Michael Lowry and/or Michael Kuhl, the drummers on the sessions) track him so artfully.

If, on Arbouretum’s “Song Of The Pearl”, there was an occasional feel of Television, “Revert To Dirt” feels more like something from a Tom Verlaine solo album (perhaps something from that instrumental one from a few years back? It’s been a good while since I played it, so apologies if I’m off the mark). Finally, it rolls into “Waking The Naga”, with the pace picking up into some blocky, almost martial “lange gerade”. Another firm foundation for Heumann’s explorations, at once languid and intense, liberated and yet unfailingly precise in their tone and clarity.


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