Monday, July 21, 2008

Shakespeare, 18 miles and two bands from Thrill Jockey

Pretty busy weekend. Sean capped off a week of theater camp with four performances of “Shakespeare’s Greatest Scenes”…sort of a hodgepodge and lots of the kids were younger and less experienced, but by Saturday night, it was pretty good. Sean got to play Anthony in Anthony and Cleopatra and had a short sword fight as Edgar in King Lear. He’s got a week off now (we’re going to Montreal for vacation on Wednesday) and then right back to it for West Side Story.

As for me, I got up early on Sunday for a long run, which went pretty well…no thunderstorms, no injuries. I had the afternoon to myself for sleep and a couple of reviews – Donkeys and Fucked Up, more on both later.

Meanwhile, Dusted is running my review of the Arbouretum/Pontiak split today. It’s called Kale, I believe because of its three John Cale covers and not anything to do with the vegetable…here it is.

(Thrill Jockey)
Two guitar-heavy bands of distinctly different lineage – Arbouretum along the axis of Neil Young and Palace Brothers, Pontiak more in the line of Kyuss and Dead Meadow – share this split. The fact that both bands cover John Cale songs provides some degree of unity, but not much. The two halves are completely separate experiences.

Arbouretum, one of last year's best surprises, starts the thing off, unfolding "Time Will Tell" with a slow, ruminative patience. Lyrics are soft, widely spaced, framed by (almost) audible thought as they trace out sparse images, a stormy natural landscape, a beautiful woman. Dave Heumann gives them both equal weight and power. The woman in the second verse – "her hair in coils her shoulder soft and bare / In her eyes, a firelight roars and dims" – is nearly as ominous as the clouds building in the first. Human beings are just as much a force of nature as trees and winds in Heumann's songs, and as the guitar escapes its bonds near the 3:30 mark, a prolonged solo brings that anarchic, wind-torn aesthetic to life. It starts with a winding, unspooling series of notes, bass and guitar wrapped in serpentine coils around each other. Then Heumann's guitar heads off into unknown territories, wailing and spinning in intractable circles, as if unwilling to fit into the strictures attached to song but unable to fully escape them. It's quite a long guitar solo, struggling on mightily over its six-minute duration to find some reconciliation between structure and pure emotional abandon. You keep expecting it to circle back to the initial musical idea, but it crashes to a halt without ever revisiting the verse or chorus.

More here:

MySpace for Arbourteum

And Pontiak

A live recording of Arbouretum from last month

And for Pontiak

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