LIVE REVIEW: Arbouretum, Love as Laughter 

Wed. April 15, The Tin Roof

Arbouretum, Love as Laughter
Wed. April 15
The Tin Roof

Looking nerdy-cool, and playing more aggressively than expected, Brooklyn's Love as Laughter opened the show at the Tin Roof last Wednesday with a dynamic set of classic and new stuff. Touring again in support of its latest album Holy (Glacial Pace), vocalist and guitarist Sam Jayne and his rhythm section played hard and heavy for the small audience. Four fans in the room obviously knew every tune and cheered wildly between songs — especially after the shouty anthem "Coast to Coast" — the lead-off track to the band's 2001 album Sea to Shining Sea (Sub Pop).

Love as Laughter's heaviest stuff reminded me of the Gun Club, X, and Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, with Jayne's dense and jangly guitar work adding the most to the sonic atmosphere. Pushed along by drummer Nic Gonzales' delicate brush/snare work, the chiming "Cross-eyed Beautiful Youngunz" stood out as the prettiest number of the set.

Headlining the night was Baltimore indie band Arbouretum, a burly and determined-looking quartet, in town behind their own new album Song of the Pearl (Thrill Jockey). Singer/guitarist Dave Heumann played a deeply-toned, long-necked Danelectro baritone guitar (mostly with a capo clipped onto the fifth fret). If Love as Laughter hinted at melancholy in their opening set. Arbouretum went for an even darker, morose vibe. It was more of a steady, slow rumble than a blast of guitar noise and bluster.

The harmonic and dissonant interplay between Heumann and guitarist Steve Strohmeier effectively textured the music, not unlike that of Television's Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine, or perhaps between the Pixies' Frank Black and Joey Santiago. There were a few, reverb-heavy Crazy Horse moments as well.

Most effective, though, was the band's careful use of repetition during long and gradual crescendos. Heumann and the band took their time building things up from a low murmur to an almost thunderous forte.

Artful and moving stuff for a slow Wednesday night. (www.myspace.com/arbouretum) —T. Ballard Lesemann

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