Arborea House Of Sticks Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

They construct a fragile, resonant world with a lingering American after-taste.

Sid Smith 2009

Arborea, who hail from the state of Maine, aren't strictly speaking folk, country, or ambient but during the 32 minutes of their third album, the record drifts smokily somewhere between them all. Husband and wife team, Buck and Shanti Curran, construct a fragile, resonant world with a lingering Americana after-taste, shimmering with the same wide-open spaces Ry Cooder's captured so well on Paris, Texas.

Sounding like frayed, half-remembered, hand-me-down tunes, shaped and altered with each retelling, the fluidity and the sparse application of instruments wherein Eastern and Western modes gently mingle is the secret of this album's startling beauty.

Like other artists operating from the USA's east-coast indie folk scene (Espers, Fern Knight, ex reverie, etc), the music also involves an affectionate backward glance to late 60s/early 70s UK folk rock, itself cross-pollinated by the USA's psychedelic scene.

Whilst it's true that what goes around so often comes around, Arborea's take on all of the above is imbued with its very own distinctive brand of delicate, beguiling minimalism.

Plucked banjo notes on Look Down Fair Moon possesses a koto-like solemnity whilst a hymnal harmonium spreads out radiant lines of melody, slowly unfurling like the sun at the start of a summer's day on In The Tall Grass.

Sometimes Shanti's voice is little more than a frightened murmur, prompting comparisons to Vashti Bunyon, though not everything here is translucent or ephemeral.

A wry sensuality insinuates itself throughout Alligators, and for all her delicacy, Shanti's stylised articulation also carries an unexpected insistence instilled with an underlying menace on Beirut and the hypnotic Dance, Sing, Fight.

Here, her near-whispered reportage takes on an unsettling air, seeping through an intricate web of dulcimer and luminous slide guitar.

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