A dense, often dream-like endeavour, Home Burial by Arborist is a weighty journey; the kind of impassioned, honest songwriting that has yet to fully embed itself in to the 2016 musical map. Across the record, Arborist (aka Mark McCambridge and band) explores “death, ageing and family” with a considered eye for detail and compelling sense of storytelling. In fact, from the outset we’re told that the record is centred the two words that give the record its name: Home and Burial – and both of these somewhat ambiguous terms drift in and out of focus from the outset.
Led by McCambridge’s often soulful voice, the record is an intricate weaving of textural guitars, deft instrumental dashes of colour, and a knack for storytelling that beautifully lends itself to the considered musical backdrop that makes for such an inviting prospect, despite the weightiness of the reoccurring themes.
Including a guest-spot from the legendary Kim Deal, the record feels like an important leap forward for the collective, a swelling, grandiose, alt-pop record that might well be the most endearing slice of Americana to climb out of Northern Ireland in a long while. Ahead of its release tomorrow, we’re very pleased to present a full stream of the new album, alongside a track-by-track guide written by McCambridge, which you can find below the player. Spend a lot of time with this one.
by Mark McCambridge
A Crow – Set at a funeral. An attempt at an atmospheric, scene-setting, introduction to the album. The layered, unsettling violins are something we came back-to several times on the album.
Dark Stream – A continuation of opening theme. In my head I see these as one song. The quasi-funeral horn introduction bleeds into the violins and cymbal-rush of a crow. The lyric is supposed to be direct and musically I loosely used The Walker Brothers’ the sun ain’t gonna shine as a template.
A Man of My Age – The most recently recorded. I had it has a demo for about 6 months then spent one evening with violinist Luke Bannon, who plays on most of the tracks, and we worked through the swaying string part. Again, I had a rough blueprint in mind, this time in the form of Dylan’s The Changing of the Guards. Lyrically, I had originally written another 5 verses on top of the 6 used but thought 6m40s was probably enough for a single.
I Heard Him Leaving – An attempt to subtly shift the angle of a first person narrative. Written from a woman’s point of view but with a focus on small details. Jonny’s meandering guitar part was the last thing recorded for the record, he did it at home, alone as he wanted to ensure he got it spot-on.
Rules of the Burial – A vague tale of revenge set in a Cormac McCarthy novel. Nice to use the word “belly” in a chorus, a satisfying word to sing. The trumpet at the end was played by fellow Northern Irishman and sometime Van Morrison session player, Linley Hamilton.
The Force of Her Will – I always had this in mind as the opening to side B and so it ended-up there. We have recorded and performed multiple versions of this song which have tended to be slower and more atmospheric but settled on this version mainly for its clarinet solo, performed by Arborist pianist, Richard Hill.
Twisted Arrow ft. Kim Deal – A familial tale of discontent. A meandering attempt at dealing with early parenthood. Released as a limited edition 7” in 2015 it features the haunting vocals of Kim Deal. I had the song recorded with multiple harmonies done myself but wanted a unique female voice to perform it. Fancifully I asked the only one person I had in mind and fortunately she obliged.
Incalculable Things – One of the older songs on the album but given a few subtle alterations to bring it up-to-date. Such as Jonny’s thrumming guitar and the luscious strings.
The Broken Light – The oldest song on the record. A fairly straight-forward attempt at a Divine Comedy love song but that goal became slightly warped in the studio, largely due to Jonny’s My Morning Jacket solo at the end.
A Fisherman – Features a poem by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Originally I wrote and recorded this as part of a commissioned theatre piece with Arborist drummer Ben McAuley. This was shortly before our second studio session for the album and it kept imposing itself until we decided it had a nice conclusive air to it. We made some minor adjustments/additions and voila.