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Arbouretum

Rites of Uncovering (Thrill Jockey)

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Will Oldham hardly seems like the kind of boss who keeps his employees on a short leash. Yet on this debut by Arbouretum -- a new Baltimore band fronted by Oldham sideman Dave Heumann -- it sounds like Heumann is savoring the first taste of freedom he's had in years. Three of the eight tunes on Rites of Uncovering stretch past the seven-minute mark (a sure sign of a Neil Young fan), and none of them appears to be in any hurry to get anywhere; the point is clearly the journey, not the destination.

That's just as well, since Heumann's not much of a songwriter: Unlike Oldham, who's got a knack for building an entire world into the architecture of a song, Heumann seems content to jam together a handful of psych-folk guitar solos and call it a day. This is at worst a semi-disappointment, especially when you consider the sympathetic assistance he solicits from his own sidemen, guys from knotty art-punk acts like Lungfish and Celebration. Establish a buzz of your choosing, and crank up "Pale Rider Blues" -- you'll scarcely mourn the death of the story arc.

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