Cass McCombs

Cass McCombs is an American musician who has released seven albums and one EP since 2002.

During the 1990’s, McCombs played in countless bands at various DIY spaces in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest until he relocated to New York. In 2002, he released his debut, Not The Way EP, on independent Baltimore label Monitor Records. On his first trip to Europe in 2003, he recorded a Peel Session for John Peel, who described McCombs’ music as “unobtrusively brilliant”. In 2003, McCombs released his first album, A, and that year toured with Baltimore’s The Oxes as his backing band. In 2004, he performed at the UK’s All Tomorrow’s Parties and in 2005 released his second album PREfection on Monitor Records in the US and 4AD in Europe. In 2005 he toured with Modest Mouse. In 2007, Dropping the Writ was released on Domino Records and McCombs toured with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Domino Records would release his next four albums: Catacombs (2009), which was voted one of the “50 Top Albums on the Year” by Pitchfork; Wit’s End (2011); Humor Risk (2011), Big Wheel and Others (2013).

In 2012, McCombs toured with John Cale and performed at Occupy Sandy, a benefit for the storm’s victims. That same year, McCombs premiered his song, “Bradley Manning” on the Democracy Now News Hour.

It is a well-worn joke in rock circles, "they are big in Japan." Rather than spending their time searching for fame, Baltimore’s Arbouretum has instead concentrated on honing their craft. It just so happens that the muse that guides them is completely outside of current rock trends. Like Richard Thompson’s work from the mid-70s, the band’s poetic lyrics and slow, heavy build are not stuff of the quick fix. Their music stands in stark contrast to a culture that is more about video and track placement than criticism and discourse. As such, it should come as no surprise that they have found success in the United Kingdom, Thompson’s birthplace. Arbouretum has been praised in Mojo 4 star reviews that end with phrases like “It just does not get much better,” a Guardian piece proclaiming that they are “One of the most distinctive voices around” and an Uncut 4 star review calling the music “Dense, thrilling and literate.”

Coming out of the Fog continues Arbouretum’s journey as their most focused and best-recorded album to date. Dave Heumann’s vocals soar atop his guitar solos and Corey Allender’s crunchy bass lines. Arbouretum have reigned in some of their maximalist tendencies, with every song coming in under 7 minutes. Heumann, Allender, Brian Carey (drums), and Matthew Pierce (keyboard, synthesizer, percussion), continue to mine the same breadth of styles made familiar on The Gathering and Song of the Pearl, notably the languid ballads, fuzzed-out burners, and heavier songs that have defined the group’s unique doom laden folk-rock sound.

Throughout Coming Out of the Fog, Heumann’s vocals take on a meditative quality, melodies unraveling effortlessly over Carey’s steady grooves. Syncopated rhythms come to the fore on “The Promise,” building tension, and leading to a climax of synth swells and chromatic guitar lines. Elsewhere, on “Oceans Don’t Sing,” guest musician Dave Hadley’s plaintive pedal-steel guitar lays a bed for some of Heumann’s most impassioned singing set to tape. Spending time on pre-production allowed for a more detailed approach to recording. Carey’s drums were tuned specifically for almost every track on the album, and tape was used to achieve the warmth only found in analog.

When taken as a whole, the lyrical theme of an individual’s relationships and struggles with forces larger than one’s self emerges. In “The Long Night,” a protagonist is faced with a metaphysical blackness, a dark night of the soul. “Renouncer” was inspired by Colin Dickey’s book The Afterlives of the Saints. It references the story of Saint Simeon, who traveled into the Syrian Desert and lived perched on a column for 36 years, living a life of death in an attempt to become closer to God. Bolstered by Heumann’s naturalistic imagery, “Oceans Don’t Sing” reflects on humanity’s powerlessness in the face of time’s steady passing. An exception to much of the record’s darkness, the title track is calming and reassuring, carried by Pierce’s affecting, sparse piano lines. Coming Out of the Fog is a well-crafted thing of beauty, an album that reveals itself more with every listen and whose lyrics take the listener out of themselves.
Arbouretum is:

Dave Heumann (Guitar // Vocals), Corey Allender (Bass), J.V. Brian Carey (Drums), and Matthew Pierce (Keyboards and Percussion)

$13 advance / $15 day of show

Tickets

The Sinclair is general admission standing room only.
Tickets available at TICKETMASTER.COM, or by phone at 800-745-3000. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box office Tuesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM. Please note: box office is cash only.

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Cass McCombs with Arbouretum

Monday, December 2 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Sinclair