Posts Tagged ‘Folk-rock’

Arbouretum

While Arbouretum has undoubtedly been on the RSTB radar over the years, I have to admit that attention to them has wavered here and there. The band knocked down a couple of heavy catalog necessities with 2007’s Rites of Uncovering and 2009’s Song of the Pearl. The former bears the scars of songwriter Dave Heumann’s time with the brothers Oldham, and dips into the well of road-worn Americana with the best of ‘em. The latter grips a bit harder and finds its way towards the spirt of Crazy Horse. That’s not to say that the rest of the catalog isn’t worth your time (it certainly is) but these were the times I remember them grabbing me. They return with seat another instance of excellence on this year’s Let It All In, an album that arrives perhaps almost serendipitously in a wave of Cosmic Americana that the band’s Heumann has long been riding.

That others’ are just now catching up to his cracked leather vision of road-beaten folk rock proves that it wasn’t that the band was out of step, they were just waiting for the world to come back around to their senses again. With a double drummer setup, seasoned session players like Hans Chew popping in for some keys, and some of the most adventurous arrangements in their discography, this is the band bringing to a head a lot of the qualities that have made Arbouretum such stalwart travelers. The touching, spiritual melancholy remains in Heumann’s vocals. The slight singe of jam in the arrangements pushes through to breaking, which it finally does within the sprawling grandeur of the title track. In a solid catalog it stands out as a peak, garnering attention that was long overdue. If, perhaps like myself, Arbouretum has existed on the periphery of your ‘to play’ pile, let this one push it to the top. This is a welcome highlight among 2020’s Americana interests.



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Woods – “Where Do You Go When You Dream?”

Well I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you about this one, but its not every day that Woods give word of a new record on the way. The band’s been working on this one for a comfortable stretch, coming in as their eleventh album after 2017’s Love Is Love, with only a collaboration with Dungen sneaking in between. Their last was a response to political shift following the upsets of 2016, but now the feelings have had a bit more time to simmer. The first single “Where Do You Go When You Dream?” continues to act as balm, but this is also a decidedly mature and elegiac Woods. The song floats on a breeze of keys, drifting away from some of the sunny strums that have marked their past works. Its a melancholy track, steeped in memory, family, and friendship. Ochre-hued harmonies, full-fleshed production, and Jeremy Earl’s wistful vocals herald an album that moves the band into a new phase of their career with grace and ease. The record is out May 22nd on Woodsist.



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Doug Tuttle

Not a bad little title for Doug Tuttle’s latest, Dream Road wraps up the gauzy take on folk that the songwriter spins on the new LP. Born out of a buttery brick of folk-rock that’s not entirely removed from the itch of Americana going ‘round these days, Tuttle’s vision is given an airiness, as if the better part of the record evaporated and filled the listener’s lungs with a sunny vitality. As for the remainder, Tuttle’s dream isn’t without clouds either. There’s a bittersweet bite to tracks like “Twilight,” and “In This World Alone,” and they drag their fingers in a watery weariness that’s ultimately as comforting as the sun.

Tuttle keeps things deceptively simple, with the sound remarkably full, despite relying mostly on layers of guitar, a scratch of drums, and vocals that bounce around the room attempting to coat the corners in a melancholy miasma. A touch of country slide here, a web of jangle n’ strum, a shock of effects now and then- but at heart this is folk-rock inherited from Fairport, Gary Higgins, and Roger Rodier. What sets him apart is coating those folk bones with the pop polish of Jeff Lynn or Gene Clark. Peace Potato hinted at bigger things in store for Tuttle, and with Dream Road he’s making good on those promises.

I’ve long held Tuttle in regard as a fine songwriter who’s been destined to make a bigger splash. This seems to be the moment for him, or perhaps the beginning of a bigger journey. He’s toeing the line between pushing his sound to new widths, heights, and lengths without spilling over into excesses, as can sometimes happen. Its an album that’s grown without pains, stretching to fill the room with a blissful sigh. There are a lot of sunny days on the way and Tuttle’s crafted a companion piece to each and every hazed beam that breaks through the trees.



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Danny Graham – S/T

Since it seems there’s still no light at the bottom of the well of overlooked and lost releases out there, it’s heartening to come across a release like Dany Graham’s eponymous 1980 LP. Despite the time stamp showing the dawn of the ’80s, the record is rooted firmly in wobbly ‘70s songwriter territory, sharing a bent sense of pop with the R. Stevie Moore / Bobb Trimble / Carl Simmons set, but in spirit it perhaps sidles up most closely with Deep Freeze Mice. Like the Mice the album has a ‘60s hangover that’s squeezed through a scrappy private press filter. The record was such a non-starter that when contacted years later by issuing label Xerox searching for information on Graham, many of the session players didn’t even know the album had seen light originally.

There are moments of pure pop brilliance on the album, albeit refracted through rough production patches, an apparent lack of editing and a nice warm lap of hiss. Graham nails softball soul (“Early Morning Heatwave”), mad-eyed folk-pop (“We’ll Make A Deal (In Amsterdam), “Love Start”) and soft rock (“Feeling You Beside Me”). As an actual album, its admittedly a bit uneven, but as a collection it wraps up all of the brain fragments Graham let slip through the tape in fine form. There’s definitely a certain type of collector that’s going to revel in this and even more cultivators of lost psychedelic ephemera who are going to find the missing piece in their mixtape of melted pop they’ve been searching for. Kudos to Xerox for digging up this treasure and with word they’re also shining up Graham’s sole other release for a new issue, it seems there’s more to love on the way.




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Alvarius B.

You seat strapped and ready? Because a dark-laced triptych straight from the teat’s a coming down the pike from the mercurial Alvarius B. The wily Alvarius is, of course, the working mask of Alan Bishop, he of Sun City Girls and the founder of Sublime Frequencies – the label that opened up the world to more collected psychedelic ephemera than most can conceivably claim to have encountered in several lifetimes. Those familiar with SCG know that the trio was no stranger to voluminous releases but yon Bishop may have outdone himself here, that’s fer sure.

Considering his body of work, the most striking aspect of this set is how in line with traditional rock it hangs. For a man who’s spent his years picking though dead stock tape troves and CD-R piles in dusty markets, routinely breaking down our dearly held notions of folk, and generally scorching the sonic landscape with his own lacerating brand – this is a slight slide out of the catacombs and into the sun. Not that he’s never cut a swath across this path before, but he’s not done it so consistently and wholeheartedly since 2011’s Baroque Primitiva, and even that feels hiss-scuffed by comparison. If anything this feels like he’s tapping into his deep bench in The Invisible Hands and proving that he can tramp on your notions of underground rock and do it a damn site better than the self-important rabble he clearly sees riding high on that particular horse.

This really should be three reviews, but since the CD edition swaddles up all three of these individual LPs to a handy bound bundle and I’ve only got the sweat for one, you’re gonna need to settle for brevity. Rest easy though, With a Beaker on the Burner and an Otter in the Oven, moves through the paced phases of Bishop’s moons with a voracious appetite for style. There’s the familiar sandlewood burn of Shamanic blues filtering through much of the first tome, moss sunk and wooden, yet rooted in a ramble that burns with the wicked heart of a Southern coven. But as we ease into Vol. 2 there are moments of white hot light, moments when you think ol’ Bishop’s gone softy on you and found peace. He never lets it lay for long though. As we inch into the final chapter, the nicotine shakes return to the fold, quivering through the crumbling form of man like a colloquial cancer.

That makes this sound like a darker set that it really is. There are truly catchy moments that caught me off guard, and taken on its own Vol.2: A Mark Twain August, is a wellspring of folk-addled pop that feels like a new beginning. I found myself going back time and again for another swig at what Bishop’s been brewing. But even when he’s pulling on his Sunday shoes, there’s a strange sadness that’s tugging at the soul of Bishop, rearing its head prominently in the other two volumes. Though each could be taken on their own, I’d advise against it. The three records feed into and off of one another. The happiness can’t survive without the sadness and neither can manifest without the madness that pock marks Vol. 3 with cigarette burns. There’s no loophole to the soul and over the course of thirty five songs Bishop proves he’s willing to put in the work to take a crack at figuring out the rubric.




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Wolf People

There are several schools of psych revial that run concurrent to each other in any given year, but Wolf People’s strain of Anglo-centric psychedelia marries the whimsical swords & sorcery, PhD caliber concept variety with a penchant for the heavier nugs of British proto-metal that began to spring up in its wake. They don’t really go in for the flights of fantasy lyrically, barring perahps “Night Witch”, but on Ruins they are embracing the itch for high concept. The album takes on the idea of an Earth in which the scourge of humanity is in its waning hours, being overtaken by nature as the heirs to the planet. They pin that concept to their brand of folk-rock, burnt to a cinder with the spark of psychedelia drawn in a direct line from the true heads of yore. There’s always been a deviant spore of The Moody Blues in the band’s sound (maybe its the flute, maybe its the timbre of Jack Sharp’s voice) but they embrace it fully on Ruins, conjuring up the spectre of prog loud and large.

That’s not to say that this is entirely picked from your dad’s stash of college LPs, Wolf People have an admitted love for both hip-hop and post-punk and while there aren’t overt inclusions of either in their pure forms (thank goodness), those influences seep through in their own way. Drummer Tom Watt swings the rhythms on Ruins, creating not hip-hop, but the kind of beats that well-tuned crate diggers tore from in the genre’s infancy. It was often the more adventurous strains of prog and rock that made for some of the most pummeling breaks and Watt seems to strive to find that charm in reverse. The guitars are thick as smoke over a ravaged 16th century village, but Sharp and Hollick weave them with a modern update blending the fuzz metal blast with the iron angles of a later ’70s vision.

It really isn’t an easy feat to bring this sound into a modern light, but Wolf People succeed in landing a foot in nostalgia proper and one in the archival spirit of an age that can cross reference the myriad histories of bands and movements in an afternoon spent internet digging. They form the best prog band that never set foot in the ’70s but holds its spirit alight for those that missed that the first go’round.




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