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Arboretum: The Gathering

Following the road to God knows where.

Like the lone figure walking off into an unknown distance pictured on the cover, there’s something both isolated and mystical about the fourth album by Baltimore’s Arboretum.

This isn’t entirely a surprise; the quartet boast a back catalogue of shimmering folk-rock experimentation, culminating in 2007’s exquisite Rites Of Uncovering, that marks them out as pioneers in the field.

It probably doesn’t hurt either that, far from the earthy lyricism traditionally observed by alt-folk and Americana, The Gathering’s inspirations come from Gnostic principles and the writings of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Certainly as opener The White Bird kicks into its distorted lumbering glow, there’s an initial sense of journey (be it physical or existential) about the record. But things get more interesting when Arboretum venture off the map altogether.

The echoing vocal on Waxing Crescents’s stormy rumble serves as a detached precursor to its trippy, psychedelic neo-tribal drumming and hypnotic drones, while The Empty Shell shudders under one-and-a-half minutes of feedback squall before suddenly jack-knifing into an instantly addictive noisy pop stomp.

However, Song Of The Nile’s ten-minutes plus amp wipeout closer means there are less instances of the bewitching stillness this act are so adept at, but it’s still worth the trip.