In the pines

Arborea make it up as they go along
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  June 4, 2008

Arborea | Released by Arborea | with Silver Summit + Fern Knight | at One Longfellow Square, in Portland | June 7
Though 2006’s Wayfaring Summer was certainly a pretty disc, full of acoustic instruments and soft-sung vocals, it would have been a mistake to use it to peg Arborea, comprising husband-and-wife team Buck and Shanti Curran, as a folk outfit. In some ways, their methodology shares more with grind-core types like Ocean or free-jazz groups like Mystic Out-Bop Review than with Simon and Garfunkel.

For their self-titled debut disc with Philadelphia’s Fire Museum Records, Arborea explore sounds, reveling as much in harmony as discord, and offer up soundscapes sometimes rich, sometimes barren. Everything about the album, even the sepia-toned cover image of the Currans amid a late-fall and barren landscape, speaks to stripping things down to their essences.

“Black Mountain Road” seems to actually open with a recording played backward, the lyrics unintelligible and the whup-whup of the tape sounding like wind in the ears. Then the tune switches to forward and a pretty banjo is joined by Shanti’s even prettier voice, begging you to “follow me to the hollow tree” and daring you to refuse.

Buck sings, too, and does well with the gloomy “Dark Horse,” his banjo in a repeating riff: “Send me a dark horse/I will ride swiftly/over the mountains/down to the sea.” He has a chanting sort of voice, just above spoken, and the tune would go great with any number of young adult fantasy-type books where elves or other fantastical creatures sing odes to days gone by.

There are times here where Buck seems to just be noodling through a warm-up, and you get the feeling that they could write some terrific stuff that would improve with additional takes and tracks, but this disc is genuinely fresh and immediate and well worth repeated listens.

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