As a member of Arbouretum, Dave Heumann is not unfamiliar with utilising pastoral tones and folk inflections in his music. But when the band took a year out, Heumann began writing and recording a solo project, and the result is an album that leans more heavily on his folk inspirations.
Fans of Arbouretum will not be disappointed however; whilst Here In The Deep is a more sedate album than any Heumann’s main band has ever made, there’s always been a kernel of folk and country in their psychedelic, spaced out rock. This was perhaps most noticeable on their 2013 Latitudes EP of Gordon Lightfoot covers, in particular their version of The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald. Here In The Deep merely takes the next step and embraces folk completely.
Nowhere on the album is this more obvious that on the version of Greenwood Side (or The Cruel Mother, as it is sometimes known) which sees Heumann reworking an old folk classic that the likes of Joan Baez, Bellowhead and Nana Mouskouri have touched upon over the years. Weirdly, it’s one of the few disappointing moments to be found on an otherwise solid record. It may well be a standard, but its relentless repetitive narrative soon begins to grate. Even a bit of murder and condemnation can’t really lift it beyond much more than a doffing of the cap in the general direction of traditional folk.
Far better are the moments when Heumann twists the genre to his own needs. Lead single Ides Of Summer for example is utterly glorious. Bright jangling guitars underpin Heumann’s laidback croon, twisting wonderfully around his vocal melody. There’s a distinct R.E.M. flavour to it or perhaps one of Sugar’s more sedate moments. It’d be a hardy soul that didn’t get swept up in the wonderful languid harmonies, that call to mind the moment at the end of a long hazy summer’s day, when the sun begins to turn fields of corn a peculiar shade of golden brown.
Opener Switchback treads a similar path, its lightly distorted guitars providing a solid base for Heumann’s wonderfully evocative vocals. Whilst much of the album possesses an American flavour, there are nods towards the British folk scene too. The most notable evocations come in the shape the instrumental finger picked guitar of Leaves Underfoot and Cloud Mind, a song that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Richard Thompson set or on the soundtrack of The Wicker Man, with its depictions of nature and delicate interwoven guitar lines.
There are hints of a British flavour too on Holy King On A Hill, but here they’re joined by drones and Eastern tones that call to mind The Beatles circa Revolver, particularly Tomorrow Never Knows. Morning Remnants serves as something of a curio, exploring repetition, drones and noise. It’s at odds with the rest of the album, but at least shows another side to Heumann’s songwriting prowess. Ends Of The Earth, though, returns him to more familiar territory: although the folk influence is still very much in evidence, the song’s meandering rock-infused finale is pure Arbouretum.
Solo projects can be very hit and miss affairs, but Here In The Deep is an evocative and at times quite wonderful set, with some gloriously summery melodies: far more than just an album written to fill some time.