Dan Arborise - Of Tide and Trail
Whenever the Music Fix Editor hands me the latest album by a singer-songwriter my heart generally sinks to my boots; I just find it hard to empathise with the self obsessed, musically moribund fare that is generally on offer. There’s always an exception to any rule of course and, for me, it has always been John Martyn that succeeded in confounding the rule book, usually by getting it really pissed on Cointreau. Realistically though, what are the chances of Dan Arborise filling Martyn’s boot?
Well, Arborise is certainly an outsider, a man literally living on the edge; the edge of this sceptred isle that is. His first album was recorded whilst he and his wife were living off the land in the wilds of Scotland and now Of Tide and Trail has been crafted on the less remote Devon coast where he’s decamped with wife and child. Unlike Martyn though, Arborise seems to be comfortable in his own skin. He may instinctively pursue a remote existence but in his artwork at least he’s relentlessly positive, and when in I Live he exclaims isn’t life wonderful there’s not a hint of irony. He may not share Martyn’s demons but he certainly does have his talent for crafting gorgeous, sweeping soundscapes with nothing more than a guitar and an Echoplex. Add to that his honeysweet vocals and you’ve really got a recipe for something exceptional.
This is an album, and it really is an holistic album rather than a collection of tracks, which draws the listener in deep to a utopian, coastal idyll; a virtual escape hatch from the mundane, stressful reality of urban existence. Arborise is working with nature here and deftly employs the organic rhythms and tempos of the tide and body, with the result that you can actually feel your heart rate decline in concert with the album. Of Tide and Trail should really be available on the National Health as it represents the perfect antidote to the rat-race; not a single note is hurried and every phrase is afforded time and space to breathe. Songs which in other hands might have withered after 3 minutes are, here, allowed to linger and mature.
Arborise may now be making his music in Devon but this recording shares little in common with the English folk tradition, instead drawing inspiration as it does from the semi-bardic Incredible String Band (My Child) and the ambient guitar work of Daniel Lanois or Micheal Brooke (Cries). Indeed there are elements of the album, in particular the 9 minute epic closing track Feet in the Sea, Head in the Stars which could be mistaken for a less bombastic and self important Joshua Tree. Quite simply, this album is revelatory and won’t be straying far from my stereo for quite some time; a definite candidate for my album of the year so far.