You’re more than welcome, of course, to read my additional commentary on this matter, but if you just want the gist of it, all you need to know is that Hush Arbors‘ new eponymous record is a scorcher! It laid my ghetto blaster to waste.
I already expected Keith Wood’s (a.k.a. Hush Arbors) debut for Ecstatic Peace to valiantly score from the three-point line. I had a chance to see him play a great opening set for pal and collaborator Six Organs of Admittance circa late 2005, so I thought I understood what I was getting into. Turns out I was wrong. I did not expect Hush Arbors, just released Tuesday, to be a comprehensively destructive force of mysticism replete with melodic beauty and modal explorations.
Hush Arbors, as far as the whole freak folk/New Weird America thing goes (I begrudgingly use this term), has always struck me as the obvious choice for ambassador of the aforementioned movement, as he offers the perfect median point for the disparate sounds found therein. Wood’s take on psychedelic folk demonstrates that it is not necessarily his intent to destroy strong structures, nor is it his intent to play it straightforward and traditional. However, Hush Arbors has gone above and beyond comparison to similar artists. It’s no longer fair to say “this is a great offering from the New Weird America camp,” it’s only befitting to describe this self-titled record as a monumental collection of music that stands up against any album, anywhere. I’m not trying to overhype this really, but Hush Arbors rules so hard. Hush Arbors’ adventurous, wide-ranging sonic paintbrush invokes the past whilst thrusting the very notion of folk rock into future territories. In short, Keith Wood just dropped the type of album that separates the men from the boys.
As a contributing member of Six Organs of Admittance (not to mention Current 93, Wooden Wand, Sunburned Hand of the Man), you certainly hear the familiar Fahey-esque, drone note heavy guitar noodling that defines the Organs’ catalog through each and every track on Hush Arbors. But the riff-heavy structures only accent the music, never existing as the sole focal point. These are well written, melodic, solid songs – simple enough to hum along, layered enough to overload your headphone technology and melt your brain. Also different than Six Organs is that Hush Arbors keeps his weirdness prominent and economical. Whereas contemporaries Ben Chasny and MV & EE like to break down into drone examinations and take lengthy journeys down sunken catacombs, Hush Arbors keeps his ideas contained within fairly concise, brightly colored, accessible songwriting. The album’s rollicking psychedelic folk, with vintage AM radio influences like classic Mayall-style R&B and Byrds-helmed feel good bucolic flourishes, is a shapeshifting exercise in sonically diverse, cosmically dense, warmly welcoming electric folk. “Water II,” as the name suggests, truly sounds like an ultra-distorted sea chanty. “Sand” is reminiscent of Wooden Wand’s intimacy and pensive acoustic melodies, yet ropes in vast tracts of almost-orchestral swells and cultivates a far-reaching, voluminous sonic landscape that soars to a sweeping crescendo in the following “The Light.”
But “Rue Hollow”…
Oh snap, “Rue Hollow.” You are very rarely treated to folk music of this nature, of this caliber, these days. Fans of Fairport Convention – here’s a missing track from What We Did On Our Holidays, except that Hush Arbors made it, not the Thompsons. You might not tell the difference, though. “Rue Hollow” is absolutely gorgeous, spacious folk in the vein of Fairport Convention’s torch songs and classical Anglo-folk canticles, baked to perfection by Mr. Wood. Crisp, autumnal acoustic guitar and ethereal, resonant vocals committed to dusted-off warm tape launches “Rue Hollow” in the exosphere, where it won’t come down until mankind mandates a cease-and-desist on its bullshit.
I feel puny and stupid in the awesome expanse of Hush Arbors’ new joint. This is a heartfelt call-to-action: buy this here. Fuck Chinese Democracy, this is Hush Arbors’ time, as far as I’m concerned.