Last month, Baltimore based shoe gazers Arbouretum released a winding, eight song excursion into the psych-swamp entitled Song of the Rose. Released with Chicago indie label Thrill Jockey, Song of the Rose travels across the genre spectrum, presenting itself as something that resembles stoner rock, transforming into indie pop, then proceeding to squeeze itself into neofolk. This is all in the course of 40 minutes – without ever making you wonder if you left shuffle on.
Despite the somewhat meandering quality of the track list, the album, as a whole, maintains a degree of artistic integrity and consistency throughout, so that even as genres bend, bleed and transform, there is always a fiber of interconnectivity and the feeling of forward motion. It is this comfort and flexibility within a range of the musical continuum – and the ability to navigate it – that seems to define Arbouretum’s proverbial ‘sound’. Songs take shape and find outline with grungy guitar riffs, and are further substantiated with booming bass and sparse drums. Keyboards sing throughout, and a relaxed and noble tenor guides the music through precarious terrain as Arbouretum pushes the boundaries of genre and barely makes it out alive. The fact that they do, however, is a testament to the strength of Arbouretum’s musical ideas and tonal signatures, without either of which, their genre blending would quickly turn into an indistinguishable audio soup.
As one of Thrill Jockey’s nearly 100 artists, Arbouretum has now celebrated eight separate releases with their Chicago based record label. If this record is any indication of the band’s relationship with the label, I imagine we can expect many future Arbouretum releases from Thrill Jockey.
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