Album number three from Mark McCambridge’s Arborist project was recorded in Richmond, Virginia with Domino act Matthew E White. McCambridge, who hails from Ballymena in County Antrim, specialises in a singularly Ulster-flavoured take on Americana, so the collaboration with White seemed like a good fit and so it proves.
Songcraft has always been Arborist’s strong suit, aided by his exceptionally strong baritone voice and witty lyrics that interrogate family life, the ever-present weight of religion and the travails of the creative process. ‘Matisse’ takes a typically wry look at the latter, pondering the gap between the work of great artists and how it may have been conceived. “You should have heard it in my head,” he concludes of his own song, which is set to sweet harmonies worthy of Fleet Foxes and an indelible chorus.
Elsewhere, ‘Black Halo’ and ‘Weeping Rot’ cover similarly lilting, alt. country ground, the gothic imagery (“You’ve memorised the sparkle of your mother’s blood”) leavened with pedal steel, luminous organ and gorgeous melodies. There are outliers, though. Notably, opener ‘Dreaming In Another Language’ has the adventurous spirit of Wilco, with its hypnotic guitar loop and discordant squalls deep in the mix.
But the centrepiece to An Endless Sequence of Dead Zeros is the spare ‘Unkind’; an enigmatic song with some arrestingly blunt lyrics (“You could break the bastard’s arm, but that would be unkind”) that are typical of a gorgeous record where menace lies just beneath the surface.
Words: Chris Jones
Arborist – An Endless Sequence of Dead Zeros