Having heard several releases by Tape and Sagor And Swing, I've been under the opinion that Häpna can do no wrong. A small label that focuses on releases that stick to the quieter side of life, their albums have provided me with many hours of joy. That said, it was disappointing to hear this new release from Loren Connors & David Grubbs. A largely-improvised recording consisting of piano and electric guitar, Arborvitae is a release that starts out sounding like a good idea and unfortunately doesn't really develop into much of anything.
The opening track of "Blossom Time" is absolutely stunning, as quiet and plaintive piano note ring out, echoed faintly by subtle whisps of guitar feedback. It sounds like a lonely lighthouse keeper mournfully playing a piano and being sung back to by whales, and at four and a half minutes it lingers just long enough to play out stunningly. The problems arise on the second, album-titled track of "Arborvitae," in which basically the same theme is repeated. It still sounds fairly nice, and there are some slight variations on the theme, but it runs for nearly 10 minutes and drags what was so beautiful about the first track into monotony.
After leaving the piano completely out of things on the overly wanky "The Ghost Of Exquisite" and "Hemlock Path" (in which two guitars meander on and on while ocassionally ringing with effects), the closer of "The Highest Point In Brooklyn" closes things out with a faint gasp of unique-ness as the piano is again back cascading warm repetitious sheets over squalls of feedback. At 5 tracks and just over a half-hour, Arborvitae is one of those improvisational recordings that unfortunately starts off great before taking a plunge and then finally redeeming itself near the end. I think I'll go back to my Tape and Sagor And Swing now, thank you.