Hush Arbors: “Hush Arbors”

It occurred to me, some time after filing the AC/DC blog on Friday, that I’ve been a bit slack at covering underground stuff (“Interstellar Overdrive” notwithstanding) for the past week or two.

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It occurred to me, some time after filing the AC/DC blog on Friday, that I’ve been a bit slack at covering underground stuff (“Interstellar Overdrive” notwithstanding) for the past week or two.

Checking through the psych/free-folk things around my desk to try and fix that, I’m tempted by a new Jackie O Motherfucker jam (more fractious than the last couple of theirs that have crossed my path), Josephine Foster’s “This Coming Gladness” and, especially, by Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh’s duo album, which is a lovely investigation of affinities between various folk traditions (especially Swedish and Japanese) by Espers’ cellist and the mainstay of Ghost.

The one record from this sector that I’ve been playing most of late, though, is the self-titled album by Hush Arbors. God knows how many albums Keith Wood – aka Hush Arbors, generally – has made thus far; if I remember rightly, I don’t actually have any of them, in spite of having seen him play a good few gigs – sometimes in the company of Sunburned Hand Of The Man, a band which he occasionally figures in.

Wood also seems to be a player these days in Current 93, a band whose revolving cast of characters are almost invariably up my street, but whose own actual music never really works for me, chiefly I suppose because I can never quite get on with David Tibet’s voice and the faintly gothic/industrial tradition from which he comes (I’ve always struggled with Tibet’s kindred spirits, most notably Coil, for much the same reasons).

Anyway, Ben Chasny Six Organs Of Admittance, of course – also figures in Current 93, and it emerges that Chasny is Wood’s champion, collaborator and most obvious musical reference point. The customarily erudite and appetising biog from Ecstatic Peace that comes with “Hush Arbors”, drops plenty of tantalising comparisons; to John Phillips, Neil Young, The Byrds, Bert Jansch, Mazzy Star and, regarding “Water II”, to “A Wire subscriber’s ‘Siamese Dream’, ‘Isn’t Anything’ as raised on a diet of wolves and Whitman.”

All valid, more or less (though that last one is a bit obtuse), but the combination of eldritch, circling acid-folk and some rockier, if still nimble, adventures, topped off with the thin incantations of Wood, are inescapably reminiscent of Six Organs – in a very fine way, I should hastily add. There’s a notable moment when the jangly folk-rock of “Follow Closely” gets knocked sideways by a fiercely snaking solo. That’s Chasny. Then a couple of songs later, in “Gone”, there’s a real freak-out that matches it blow for blow. This time, it’s Wood himself.

“Gone”, as it happens, shows that Hush Arbors, for all their dimly-lit subterranean rep, are actually a rather accessible proposition. “Light”, for instance, is excitingly straightforwardish fuzzpop, while “Sand” is as uncomplicatedly pretty as this sort of psych-folk gets, right up there with my own personal favourite, PG Six (there’s a big echo of Pat Gubler’s style on “Rue Hollow”, incidentally). One more comparison: Alexander Tucker, especially the mix of voice and looping riffs on “Bless You”. All good.


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