Dan Arborise’s first album, ‘Around in circles’ has been a fixture in my CD player and on my iPod since I first encountered it about 12 months ago, so to say that I was looking forward to ‘Of tide and trail’, his new album, would be something of an understatement.
The great news about the new album is that it is at one and the same time both an affirmation of all the good things we already knew about from the first record, but adds another layer of musical development. Although I don’t know Dan Arborise personally, I found myself approaching this CD with some trepidation; he is clearly such an outstanding talent and I would really like to see his music reaching a much wider audience, an audience which, in my view, it thoroughly deserves. Not quite sure why I feel this sense of anxiety on his behalf; for all I know, Dan may be quite happy with his young family in North Devon and desire no increase in his current levels of visibility and ‘fame’. Alternatively, he may, like so many others before him be completely unsuited to mass exposure and should perhaps be treasured in his current context and not prodded into becoming ‘the next big thing’.
Whatever the case, the cover of the new album places Dan in a big landscape; rugged rocks and cloud-wracked sky to the fore. He has relocated to the southwest and it seems to suit him. Lyrically, the songs here seem to be about family life ; something that clearly absorbs a good deal of his time, energy and thought. The ringing, fluent acoustic guitar is there as before, with layers of underpinning harmonium or synth and vocals sometimes double-tracked for emphasis. Songs alternate between the folky ‘Another side of the sky’ and ‘She told me how to love her‘ and more protracted excursions like ‘Cries’ and ‘Under your spell’, which sees Dan heading for ambient waters in a way that evokes the work of a number of people – most notably John Martyn and even David Sylvian.
Facts have to be faced here; I’m sure Dan is already sick of the Nick Drake/ John Martyn comparisons but for now they are unavoidable. Perhaps one day people will talk of John Martyn as sounding like an early version of Dan Arborise; I guess that’s what he has to hope for. The album’s closer, ‘Feet in the sea, head in the stars’ even features the kind of chugging echoplexed guitar that Martyn used so regularly towards the end of his career.
Whatever the changed circumstances, whatever the influences, one thing is certain – ‘Of tide and trail’ is a worthy successor to ‘Around in circles’ and the promise that was evident in Dan’s first album remains there and shines just as brightly. It’s an album that I welcome into my life as I would a bright day in springtime. It will be interesting to see where he takes us next…..