Falling somewhere in between Pixies at their most unhinged and The Velvet Underground at their most propulsive, Georgia's Arbor Labor Union create a kind of psychedelic Southern rock, engrained with grooves and peppered with hallucinogenic imagery. Releasing their first record under the name of Pinecones, the four-piece have since taken root and developed in to the hypnotic, and hugely upbeat and off-kilter outfit they are today.
“Transmission granted. Safe passage through the maze” yelps singer/mind leader, the fittingly named, Captain Brain Atoms Starship on early cut 'Hello Transmission'. It's the kind of cosmic reassurance needed, as the floodgates begin to creak open and riff after repetitious riff pour through. It's not the psychedelic barrage one would have to get used to gradually however, rather it's sun-beaten, optimistic, and only a little unruly; much less of an assault to the senses and much more an invitation to a party.
That said, it's also the kind of party at which the guests hang around a little longer than necessary; sometimes repeating themselves several times, often saying very little all. That could be doing the band a disservice however, as there are moments when I Hear You truly shines.
The entirely instrumental 'Babel' for instance, with its motorik peaks and troughs, building up in the end to very little, but having a hell of a lot of fun on the way. 'Silent Oath' is similar- a loping track that chugs its way to a conclusion along a meandering and deep-cut groove. It is worth mentioning however that both these tracks come in at the shorter end of the record's spectrum, and that the longer tracks do have a tendency to blend in to one on repeat listens.
Album closer 'IHU' is somewhat of an exception to that rule. Clocking in at 6:20, it's one of the longest tracks on offer. It's also arguably the most upbeat and even anthemic; the cathartic release following eight-tracks of ever-building pressure. It's here that Atoms Starship allows his vocal to soar for the first time, and in doing so comes across as the bastard spawn of Bowie and Black Francis. Interestingly enough 'IHU' also shares a similar sense of pent-up euphoria to Bowie's '"Heroes"'. But while the latter is allowed to reach somewhat of a crescendo thanks in part to its explosive hook, 'IHU' eventually collapse in on itself, closing out the track and the album proper.
Such a conclusion reflects the album itself; building to something that could be glorious, but then caving under the pressure. There's plenty of promise to find within Arbor Labor Union's sanguine psych, but there's still a little further to go before the pinecones become trees with any real weight about them.
6Dave Beech's Score