Arbouretum - Song Of The Rose album review

First in four years from voyaging Baltimore folk-psych-Americana quartet.

Arbouretum - Song Of The Rose album artwork

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A going concern for 15 years now, Arbouretum have steadily refined their sprawling psych jams into something quite spectacular.

This belated successor to 2013’s Coming Out Of The Fog, after which the band took a breather as leader Dave Heumann embarked on a solo career that yielded the very wonderful Here In The Deep, is a thoroughly engaging work that balances their exploratory impulses with a profound love of melody. Heumann remains the central figure, his keening vocals and snaking guitar lines evoking worlds within worlds on Call Upon The Fire, drawing imagery from mythology and the I Ching. The loping title track, an allusion to Heumann’s poet ancestor Richard Lovelace (who wrote The Rose), is Arbouretum at their best, a processional epic laced with pedal effects and an unwavering sense of grandiosity. Dirt Trails, by contrast, is more low-key, but equally affecting. A meditative chugger that addresses “the illusion of progress”, it’s a song that moves deliberately, the frontman warning of rolling thunder and rising waters before unfurling a vivid solo. Pentangle and early Fairport continue to act as a lodestone, imbuing this striking music with a curiously dislocated feel.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.