The Arboretum’s new album, Falls The Shadow, is very much a disc for today’s uncertain times. Recorded entirely during lockdown, the duo Keith and Chris Trim, have created an intoxicating and dense soundtrack to the world we live in.
Creating a wall of loud guitars, grimy bass and unsettling electronic rhythms, the band’s sound initially comes across as dark and foreboding as our immediate future (the continued battle with the covid pandemic, the ever increasing environmental emergency, the mass rollout of mis-leading and harmful information, etc), as waves of guitar wrap and entwine around skittering, industrial beats, while a melancholic Keith, speaks of a ‘brutal new world’ as the shadows ‘fall long and so tall’ suggesting a dystopian future lays ahead.
However on further investigation shards of light appear in cracks between the shadows, a shimmering melody, a harmonious vocal and tinkered piano all make their presence felt during the duration of the album offering glimmers of light whilst the title of Emergence speaks for itself.
The Arboretum open proceedings with Bonesaw and a pulsing synth that’s quickly joined by a brooding electronic groove, along with an enchanting, ethereal hum courtesy of Eva Trim (of Eva And The Blue Drive), before a shock of industrial guitar bullies it’s way to the forefront of the mix as the duo flex their muscles upping the intensity prior to Keith’s sparse, repetitive lead vocal (assisted once more by Eva) over a heady mix of ‘post-industrial electronic rock’, complete with squalling guitars and deep seated rhythmic melodies.
Cortex follows. A track that apparently started as an instrumental, uniting an unsettling deep electronic bass throb with waves of guitar and an oddly infectious, instrumental undercurrent (offering shards of light in peaking through the gloom). For the album version Keith delivers an affecting vocal mantra, pleading for a stop of all these lies, as we navigate for a world of deceit.
The Arboretum continue to simultaneously unsettle and bewitch with the album’s mesmeric title track, Falls The Shadow, a six minute plus epic, that opens with pattered electronic percussion, before building up with spiralling guitar and searching strings leading to sudden bursts of power, only for the band to strip everything away leaving a stunningly simplistic keyboard melody as the embers of the are finally die out.
Liquid Planet perhaps serves as the album’s centre-piece and most striking track. Weaving an immediate slice of electronica with samples of sliced and spoken word courtesy of environmental evangelist, Greta Thunberg. Her biting words hitting home, enhanced by the band’s beats and glitches. Keith adds a choral hook loop (assisted by Eva on harmony duties) over military beats, inventive synths and crunchy, spiralling guitars as the song sensationally twists and turns, before leaving the final word to an ominous Greta ‘Our house is falling apart’.
Elsewhere, both Beyond This Horizon and Cold Grey Steal shimmy and sparkle with the former even offering a more organic sound, complete with strings and a sudden drum-led change of pace Three further bonus tracks see the band thrillingly experiment and expand their sound with voyages into dub, Afro-beat and beyond.
Fall The Shadows is an intriguing, inventive and thought-provoking state of the nation address, the perfect soundtrack to these troubled and uncertain times. Sure there’s a bit of doom and gloom and some big issues addressed, but there’s also hope, optimism and big hook or two contained within, I highly recommend exploring The Arboretum.
By: Will Munn