Hush Arbors and Arbouretum, two extremely different outfits that both explore the lineage of progressive folk and its chance encounters with experimental and improvisatory forms, come together on the split album Aureola as distant but loving cousins or possibly two sides of the same coin. Hush Arbors' Keith Wood and crew contribute five drifty tunes of wandering dreamer folk touched by subdued bursts of fuzzed-to-infinity guitar leads. Wood's involvement as a supportive player in Six Organs of Admittance, Current 93, and other more free-form outfits has informed his structured folk with loosely unhinged crosscurrents. The free-raga lead guitar exclamations on "People & Places" take the song's overall feel from On the Beach-era Neil Young outtake to one of animated free flight. Wood's achy high-register vocals may bring Bon Iver to mind to some, but the wounded character that lies beneath the surface has more in common with Bobb Trimble's cold falsettos or deeper still the washy lostness of Gary Higgins on his classic of outsider folk, Red Hash. Arbouretum also wander around the intersection of traditional folk and a new breed of psychedelic sounds, relying on a more tumultuous blend of overdriven guitars, booming rhythms, and U.K. folk-inspired melodies serving as the starting point for drony improvisations. The three tracks offered up here all stretch out in a languid uneasiness, with singer/guitarist Dave Heumann alternating crushing acid-laced guitar solos with belted vocals over repetitive grooves. It's the complementary nature of the bands' sentiments more than their sounds that makes Aureola successful. While Hush Arbors' gently melancholic folk comes from a world of foggy mountain walks and quiet late-night road trips, worlds removed from Arbouretum's heavy landscapes, both projects have longing and displacement at their core. Singing out in exploration of feeling like a stranger to even the most familiar friends, looking for a place to be or finding that place and feeling disconnected from it as time moves on, each group takes a different sonic approach to sorting out the same world-weary feelings.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas