Music Reviews
The Gathering

Arbouretum The Gathering

(Thrill Jockey) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

As their name would suggest Arbouretum offer a pastoral type of folk-rock. However, their fourth album The Gathering sees the Baltimore natives turn up the volume considerably, like constructing a great big highway down the middle of their carefully constructed rural idyll – the nature references are still there (the opening track is entitled The White Bird), but the whole thing seems much more solid, concrete and loud.

Although perhaps the road simile should be dropped there so as not to inadvertently encourage driving under the influence as this is a journey that's likely intended to be taken with a joint or two, essentially being an homage to that kind of strung-out, psychedelic rock as popularised by The Grateful Dead. You don't need to look at a press photo to know that there are more than a few beards amongst the members of Arbouretum.

Album standout Highwayman particularly draws on these influences, taking lyrical subject matter beloved of 1970s American rock – including manual labour, ghosts and 'far out' readings of the first law of thermodynamics – and draping them in a melancholic guitar melody. Musically the album doesn't try to break any new ground, but it has a thick, warm and inviting sound, from the pleasantly smoky vocals to the effectively simple guitar lines and powerful bass roar.

It's just a shame that it doesn't manage to keep this up as, despite being a short record, it starts to run out of steam before the end. Waxing Crescents and closer Song of the Nile are stretched out to ridiculous lengths, whereas The Empty Shell seems to be formed of two half-baked ideas, both of which are irritating.

Although at it's best The Gathering is an immersive throwback to a bygone age, considering there are already many records that do this sort of thing much more consistently, it's difficult to recommend.