Arbouretum: Arbouretum LP
Arbouretum’s mystic folk-rock collapses a continuum of 20th century music into decidedly classic song structures. English folk, country blues, Americana and 70s psychedelia all serve as touchpoints in their singular and distinctive sound. The Baltimore-based band have perfected the craft of storytelling using the delicate interplay of melodies and prosaic lyrics to tell vivid stories that engage the listener and transport them the way an immersive novel would. Let It All In stands as their most accomplished and evocative album to date. Guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann’s melodies and solos still remain a central focus bolstered by the hypnotic rhythms of bassist Corey Allender and drummer Brian Carey and enhanced by Matthew Pierce’s substantial yet understated keyboard figures. Each song is a vivid scene or tale; meticulously detailed and crafted, transporting the listener to another world and time.
Recorded at Wrightway Studios with Steve Wright, the record’s elaborate, delicate and interlocking melodies expand with improvisation as in the relentless forward-motion of title track “Let In All In”, or the slow cosmic churn of “No Sanctuary Blues”. Let It All In features two drummers on nearly every track. David Bergander worked with long-time core member Carey to develop complementary parts, blended together as if they were a single player rather than two separate instrumentalists. New sounds are nowhere more evident than on “High Water Song”. With its raucous honky-tonk piano laid down by Hans Chew and walls of layered saxophone, trumpet and flugelhorn played by Dave Ballou and Matthew Pierce, it is a striking new addition to their catalog of songs.
Heumann’s deep sense of spirituality and command of storytelling through myth and metaphor resonates through Arbouretum’s music. Let It All In invokes nature as a backdrop for exploring humanity's relationship to time, history, and the present socio-political climate, often highlighting water as a ubiquitous if often unconscious presence in our lives. It acts as a subtle connecting thread through each piece’s imagined landscapes, as well as taking on a symbol for change and spirit. The “black and deepest crimson” of sunrise over the Atlantic ocean on “How Deep It Goes” reflects on current political turmoil and the obfuscation of truth. "High Water Song" follows a narrator whose home is washed away by the effects of climate change and struggles to integrate into a new homeland. Title track "Let It All In" acts as a thematic thesis to the album, musing on both the pitfalls and benefits of letting the outside world into one's inner life.
Let It All In is as instantly arresting as it is deeply reflective, with layers of sound and metaphor for the listener to unravel and interpret in their own way. It is a beautiful album that lives in and reflects the present moment while sounding as if it were forged in another era. The group has always centered around Heumann’s remarkable voice and songwriting. His skill as a vocalist and guitar player have led to playing with artists such as Cass McCombs, Will Oldham, and many others. Heumann’s songs are transportive and decidedly album-oriented, and Let It All In is an invitation to jump into an album rich with timeless elegance. The rarity of their live shows and the otherworldliness of their music have made Arbouretum a cultish band, a treasure for those that discover their albums. Their profound music endures and rewards fans both old and new. Arbouretum has added to their catalog another exceptional work that will weather changing fashions and reward those who explore their entirely unique world.