Arbouretum started off as a solo project from Dave Heumann, who has toured previously as Will Oldham's guitarist. Their 2004 debut, Long Live The Well-Doer, released on Ned Oldham's (Will's brother) Box Tree Records, saw Heumann collaborating with drummer David Bergander. On Arbouretum's Thrill Jockey debut, Rites of Uncovering, Heumann's Arbouretum now has a full-time roster. The band sounds like a devilish electric-version of Fairport Convention. It's a shame The Grateful Dead took the name they did. It would have fit Arbouretum's sound way better.
Heumann and the rest of the band do not go out of their way to pull you in with cool lyrics or amazing guitar work. They are a simple band made up of four unassuming musicians, and to be honest, I have no definitive answer as to why I love this band as much as I do. Maybe it's because they aren't trying at all. They aren't trying to be cool, they aren't trying to trick you into thinking they're good musicians, and they sure as hell aren't trying to make you a fan of theirs. What I do know is that Rites of Uncovering is one hell of an album. Heuman's melodies have become more focused and the songs are easier and more immediately enjoyable to listen to than on Long Live The Well-Doer. Heumann continues to excel in the dark folk metal the he does so (un)perfectly.
The most important thing on Rites of Uncovering is Heumann's guitar playing. The guy has caught onto the "less is more if it's loud and thick" routine. God Bless him for it. On record and live, Heumann builds momentum with his Baritone Danelectro by making it, well, REAL loud. The guy has a knack for making a guitar solo over one chord (the amazing chugger of a song "Pale Rider Blues") go from a fistfight to a full on nuclear war. The nearly 9 minute track sounds as good on record as it does live. (I caught the band play an amazing set in the dingy basement of New York's Cake Shop last Saturday night.) It's hard for any band to capture the energy of a full-on jam on record, but Arbouretum does it (un)perfectly many times. The eleven-minute "The Rise", sounds as if Heumann is calling for the dead to join him in the recording studio. He captures something in that song that makes the eleven minutes blow by like the acid trip you never had. Or the one you want to remember.
The album comes out on January 23rd and I can guarantee you that it won't go away lightly. Arbouretum caught something truly amazing on tape and Rites of Uncovering will soon become an indie-rock classic. Heumann has managed to record an album with thick guitar lines and haunting melodies combined with a fragile air that seems to make the songs float. Go see them play tomorrow, 12/15, at Maxwell's in Jersey. If their Cake Shop performance and their CMJ show at Tonic is any indication of how fucking great these guys are, then you won't want to miss it. Hell, they even made Gordon Lightfoot's "Summer Side Of Life" sound mean. Go see them, go buy their album, and watch out for this band. They'll be your new favorites.