Dan Arborise is a man that likes to get in touch with the elements. Where previous album Around In Circles saw its genesis in an old cottage in the Borders, Of Tide And Trail is just that – born on the North Devonshire coast.
It becomes immediately possible to feel the open air and the sea spray, conveyed through the clever way Arborise uses electronics to hang off the edge of his acoustically-based songwriting.
Inevitably the relaxed, slightly hushed delivery of the vocal and the slightly dreamy strum of his accompanying guitar will bring Arborise comparisons with Nick Drake, but this is more of a wide screen approach to acoustic songwriting that gives the listener the option to stand back and admire the view, or dive in and get up close and personal.
Arborise sings of everyday thoughts and emotions, always talking across rather than down to his listener. A song such as I Live might sound rather lofty with it’s “Isn’t life wonderful” hook, but the vocal has an approachable honesty. The following Cries takes a more stark approach, sounding more like Fink in its appropriation of breathy vocal and distant electronics, though crucially lacking the edge of the latter until a florid acoustic guitar solo.
It’s in songs like You’ll All Get What’s Coming To You or Under Your Spell that Arborise excels, in the former packing a punch with his no nonsense messages, while in the latter spinning a dreamy, ruminative yarn that drifts away in a haze of weightless guitar lines.
Each Arborise song is a broad canvas, most taking five or more minutes to set the scene and work their magic, with the verses often bisected by extended instrumental breaks. These occasionally threaten to disrupt his songwriting flow, but provided the album is listened to as a whole they are more effective – especially if you end as you should with Feet In The Sea, Head In The Stars, an atmospheric piece of weightless electronica with a Floydian twist, Arborise coming in with a higher vocal a mere seven minutes in.
It signs off Of Tide And Trail as an atmospheric biopic of life and relationships in the country, taking its music to the great outdoors and singing in to the teeth of a Nor’ Westerly while the waves break on the shore. Evocative and often strangely moving, it provides a neat twist on the singer-songwriter discipline.