Having served time as a sideman, playing with Bonnie Prince Billy and Papa M, Dave Heumann formed Arbouretum to showcase his own songwriting. While still often baring traces of Will Oldham, Heumann has used his group to channel his love of Neil Young, Richard Thompson and Black Sabbath into a heady mix of country, blues and psychedelica. They arrived in London on the back of ‘Coming Out of the Fog, recently named Pennyblackmusic’s Album of the Mmonth.

Several reviews have suggested that anyone let down by Neil Young’s most recent album with Crazy Horse might instead head in the direction of Arbouretum. ‘Coming Out of the Fog’ reins in the band’s tendency towards freeform jamming, but there were still plenty of extended solos in the live show. Judging by the audience reactions, that is exactly what Arbouretum’s fanbase wanted.

Interviews with the band have hinted at an interest in meditative psychology (Carl Jung’s 'The Red Book' was apparently the main influence for their 2011 album ‘The Gathering’), but in person, Arbouretum are refreshingly unpretentious. Bearded and clad in checked shirts, in fact they looked like 90% of their audience.

Arbouretum had to work harder to get the crowd onside than normal tonight. A late start had left many hanging around outside in the cold, helping a local coffee shop’s takings considerably, but perhaps dampening some moods. And, they weren’t helped by their support act – Teeth of the Sea – who I will avoid at costs in the future. Seemingly influenced by the very worst of the Prodigy and Pink Floyd, they bludgeoned the audience with repetitive drum beats and formless noise from synths, guitars and trumpets. Each track seemed more tedious than the last, and the crowd thinned noticeably during their set.

So, after a low key start – there doesn’t appear to be a backstage area in the Corsica Studios, so bands amble onstage from the crowd and start playing - the atmosphere felt flat for the first few songs of the headline act’s set. So, it is a testament to Arbouretum that, when Heumann announced that they had one more left, I was left wishing it could go on much longer.

The gig really picked up at its halfway point when the band performed the quieter ballad ‘Oceans Don’t Sing’. Arguably their very best song, with keyboardist Matthew Wright doing his best Rick Wright impression over an earthy blues arrangement that echoed the rich ballads of Free. After that, the band seemed to tighten – and every song they played afterwards grabbed your attention from the first riff.

Arbouretum’s main selling point is clearly Heumann’s guitar – and when his solos were in full flow, it was a glorious noise. Another especially likable part of the show comes from drummer Brian Carey. Clearly capable of making a monstrous noise if he wanted to, he locks into a tight, unflashy groove and creates space for Heumann to let rip. Without this, there was a chance these songs would sound formless. Instead, Arbouretum do that simple thing so few bands can actually do well – rock!












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Commenting On: Corsica Studios, London, 21/2/2013 - Arbouretum








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