It’s not fair to call Lafayette’s Arbor Vitae a rock band. Rock bands are loud, outrageous and jarring. Arbor Vitae calls on layering as intricate and delicate as baklava and just as sweet (in a dizzying sugar coma way). Deep, perfectly orchestrated songs with foggy and ethereal vocals switch between the breathy and lush dual harmonies of singer Tim Campbell and drummer Tiffany Lamson. Even at their most tumultuous, it’s quite a caress that refuses to jar listeners from their Arbor Vitae-induced dreamlike state. Yet, with sprinklings of intensity, they pull off an ambient sound with both beat and backbone. Tuesday, July 10 at the Renaissance. - Nick Pittman-.
The debut album by Lafayette’s Arbor Vitae is a surprising record that defies expectations. It stands out in a world of fast-paced, plastic and overloaded rock by taking its time, slowly drizzling layer upon layer. Once it starts a convincing approach to ambient rock, it builds to a subtle, tense pitch then levels off to deliver dreamy lyrics.
These foggy and ethereal lyrics are punctuated in mid-sentence with instrumentation like hooks competing with hooks. Guitarist Chad Viator adds samples and synthesizer while bassist Chris French mixes in percussion and the occasional tuba. Singer/song writer Tim Campbell and drummer Tiffany Lamson take lead vocal roles in the liner notes only. Instead, the band itself sings the lead in the layers. Delicately placed atop each other, they melt and swirl together.
Campbell’s nearly whispered vocals move the dizziness along as they are met with reinforcement from Lamson, who makes most of the bold moves with her raspy vocals. The pair does not compete in the typical duet fashion, but, like the band, form one instrument, almost inseparable from itself.
.offbeat magazine review by nick pittman
A high contrast of delicate ambience and tasteful intensity is what powers Arbor Vitae's first self-titled album. The Lafayette-based quartet uses a combination of Tim Campbell and Tiffany Lamson's sultry voices, Chris French's passionate bass, tuba, and upright bass tones, Chad Viator's clean and smooth guitar riffs, and the never-ceasing strength of Lamson's drumming. Campbell also plays guitar, which converses throughout the album with Viator's resonating chords.
The tracks range dynamically from quiet, nautical whispers to passionate harmonies. "Sunken Ships" begins with the hum of a delicate organ-like sound and Lamson's serene voice. The guitars present a constant lilt throughout the ambience, until the vocals of Campbell and Lamson build the melody into an array of rhythmic layers and driving euphonies. The song ends with the same relaxing aura from the beginning, and is soon followed by the upbeat intro to "Broken Records." This track pursues a lively arrangement that lapses into the beautiful lulling of Campbell and Lamson's voices.
"For the Queen" portrays the more rock side of Arbor Vitae's album, beginning with a dialogue of guitars and energetic drums. It is complimented with another powerful track, "Circles," which begins with bold guitar rhythms from both Campbell and Viator. French adds in along with Lamson to make a turbulent statement. The intense volume is alternated with Campbell and Lamson's soothing vocals, balancing the track into two equal parts of pretty melodies and full instrumentals.
Tracks like "Signatures," "Fields," and "Resentments in Silence" should not be judged by their drowsy intros. "Signatures" has a tranquil beginning but is followed by an aggressive build-up paired with warm and lusty sighs from Campbell and Lamson. "Fields" features Lamson by herself on vocals with the accompaniment of soft guitar that swells in and out of static. The song comes to a slight pause that is followed by a beautiful guitar riff and more soothing whispers from Lamson. The lyrics grow into a section written in upbeat 5/4 time, powered by drums, guitars, bass, tambourine, bells, and soft vocals. This combination presents a bright contrast from the beginning of the song, and perhaps keeps the listener from dozing off into a relaxing nap.
The structure of each song becomes slightly predictable, being that almost every track starts slow and obscure and is followed by a build-up or a few heavy bars of raucous cymbals and distorted guitar. But, though very tasteful writing, these musicians surpass monotony and make this structure work beautifully, much like Explosions in the Sky's album "The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place." Arbor Vitae's album also mirrors the calmness of Broken Social Scene's "Feel Good Lost," or The Books' album "Lost & Safe." So, whether you're sleeping through a rainstorm or running through one, Arbor Vitae is the perfect companion. This album is wonderfully written by a group of kind and beautiful musicians who will each go very far with the amount of talent they possess. –C. Isabel LaSala------------------------------
"more than once the musical highs wanted
to lead my body into some involuntary yoga stretch,
the effect the music had on me physcially was very
interesting. it wasn't a dance response but a stretch,
a pull upwards, an arching of my back. a breath. and
that is life, isn't it?
verity dejean on arbor vitae
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