Dave Heumann has learned much in stints backing Oldham brothers projects like Bonnie Prince Billy and Anomoanon. Finding a distinctive voice with his band Arbouretum, however, has not been easy.
Their previous effort, 2007's Rites of Uncovering, was a fine album, heavy with Oldhams: Ned played in the band, Paul produced some tracks, and Will's influence was palpable in the record's plaintive folk warble. Song of the Pearl is a different story: from the opening riffs of "False Spring," it's clear that Heumann has been spinning Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere, trading in Oldham for Neil Young. And Arbouretum interpolate the classic-rock-radio vibe into something vital and engaging.
In "Another Hiding Place," Heumann's sneering lyrics paint a dusty, desolate landscape amid the band's roadrashed accompaniment. "Infinite Corridors" fades psychedelic, as fuzzed-out guitars threaten to tear the intricate vocals to shreds. The slower, dreamier title track and "Down by the Fall Line" provide a clearer picture of what Arbouretum can offer beyond well-crafted homage.
Song of the Pearl may not be full of surprises, but it provides a fresh trip through familiar territory that's more than idle nostalgia.