Split albums are often a tricky prospect. So often half the album will be by someone great, you just get in to it and then in crash the other band and spoil it all for you. Not in this case though.
Both of these bands are Baltimore based and the album was recorded in Pontiak’s house / studio in the city. Arbouretum first came to our notice last year with their incredible Thrill Jockey debut ‘Rites Of Uncovering’ and they maintain the momentum here, contributing four of the albums seven tracks.
The record is a combination of new tracks by each band and covers of John Cale tracks. Arbouretum have done a resolutely downbeat, but warm and resonant version of ‘Buffalo Ballet’ encapsulating the songs imagery of melancholic cowboys inhabiting dusty western wastelands perfectly. For their part, Pontiak have furnished us with a powerful version of ‘The Endless Plain Of Fortune’ replete with spacerockesque noodlings and a psychedelically slanted version of ‘Mr Wilson’.
As great as the covers are, wonderful examples of Cale’s brilliant song writing, it’s the original tracks that stand out. The album opens with Arbouretum’s ‘Time Doesn’t Lie’, with a melody reminiscent of Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’ but deeper and fuzzier, it’s a staggering piece of work. Across it’s near ten minutes it veers from being a great epic rock song all the way down to being a noise rock masterpiece.
Their other two contributions, ‘Flood Of Floods’ and ‘Dome Under The Sky’, are nearly as good. ‘Flood…’ is a gentler affair but retains the fantastic guitar sound of the first two tracks and adds a plaintive vocal that could be Bill Callaghan at his finest. ‘Dome…’, however, references Sabbath and much of Stoner Rock that has come since Ozzy and the boys were strutting their stuff. Great.
Pontiak’s only new song on the record is ‘Green Pool’ and is a laid back spacey number that fits very nicely bookended by their two Cale covers, all reverbed vocals and floating guitars.
My only complaint with this album is that it’s too short, ending just as the listener is getting fully immersed. However, it most clearly marks these two bands out as ones to look out for in the future.
Pontiak’s new album ‘Sun On Sun’ is out soon (look out for the review in the next few weeks) and Arbouretum are recording now, so look forward to that early next year.
Top Tracks :’Time Doesn’t Lie’, ‘Flood Of Floods’.
Released 01/09/2008 on Thrill Jockey