Dave Heumann - Here in the Deep - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Dave Heumann - Here in the Deep

by Blaire Lund Rating:7 Release Date:2015-10-21

Dave Heumann’s first solo album, Here in the Deep, is a calming folk-rock album that seems as familiar and peaceful as a Sunday morning drive. The Arboretum musician branches out to explore the quiet, untouched expanses of nature and of the mind. 

He has enlisted a number of talented musicians to join him on his first solo effort, including Walker Teret of Lower Dens, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, the pianist Hans Chew and drummer/percussionist Mike Kuhl. Here in the Deep was produced by John Parish, who is known for working with PJ Harvey, and anyone who has any of her later works will recognize John Parish’s touch embedded in these songs.

Overall, it is a strong album that showcases Dave Heumann’s talent as a songwriter and his knowledge of traditional folk music. The album is touched by psychedelic moments, though, with swirling guitars and spaced-out electric noises forming the undercurrent of these otherwise folk-based songs. The psychedelic elements are not overbearing and they do not seem out of place though; they are buried within the mix, giving these songs a fresh and interesting sound.

Opening song ‘Switchback’ is an upbeat-sounding, electric folk-rock track that blends tambourine-beating folk charisma with trippy electric guitars. ‘Cloud Mind’ is reminiscent of 60’s/70’s folk rock artists with its style of singing. This mellow track features pleasant nature imagery with phased-out guitars lying in the background and the swirling guitars rising in between the verses. ‘Ides of Summer’seems instantly familiar. It’s a very 1960s hippie-sounding song that feels like an easy jaunt through the park.

Title track and first single ‘Here In The Deep’ is the shining highlight of the album. This mournful dirge is a departure from the atmosphere of the rest of the album. The song begins with church-like organ music that sets the lamentful tone. Heumann’s waif-like vocals floats over the music, telling the story of this song of awakening. A resigned yet transcendent Heumann sings with acquiescence, “I’ve had my fill of all I could take/ I threw my keys into the lake”. The song closes out with beachy, ocean-recalling guitars. The way this song relays it’s poignancy in such a plain, simplistic and yet effective manner recalls the work of another folk great: Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. Though the tone is melancholy, there is still an overriding sense of hope permeating through the veil of the sadness.

Heumann puts his mark on a cover of the traditional murder ballad ‘Greenwood Side’, a song that tells of a maiden who murders her two children and then is visited by them from the grave and sentenced to “seven more years in the fires of hell”. The heavy bass and electric guitar give weight to this dark tale. He is joined by Jenn Wasner in a wonderful duet, lending her voice to this traditional song.

A gong-like middle-eastern themed drum drives the beat of ‘Holly King On a Hill’. The psychedelic sounds of the sitar and Heumann’s chant-like singing form this acoustic-pysch track.  Another standout is ‘Ends of the Earth’, on which Heumann challenges the listener to meet him “down there where the earth ends”. The meandering guitars and understated bass are the backdrop to this apocalyptic song where Heumann talks of “the dust where cities crumbled”. He has his epiphany when he reveals, “I went out to look for tinder and I found myself on fire”. The song features electric guitars that cascade like the ocean, which are understated and loom in the background as a cheerful guitar is overlaid atop them. Towards the end the guitars get faster and faster, seemingly bringing on the apocalypse hinted at earlier in the lyrics. The song then fades out peacefully, evading the foretold disaster.

Here in the Deep features three instrumental tracks, each of which perpetuates a different atmosphere. ‘Morning Remnants’ begins a wash of ocean guitars and ends with a slow piano and crackling sounds reminiscent of a campfire.  ‘Leaves Underfoot’ is a gentle, acoustic piece with a country edge, while ‘By Jove’ is a cacophony of weird electric/psychedelic sounds.

Though there are many strong tracks on this album it doesn’t feel fully fleshed out. The three instrumental tracks, while each inherently different, still don’t stand out significantly and aren’t incredibly memorable. It feels as though a couple of songs are missing that would be needed to fully form the album. Still, it’s not an album to miss with the wonderful ‘Here In The Deep’ and standout tracks ‘Ends of the Earth’, ‘Switchback’ and ‘Holly King On A Hill’.

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