When it comes to his music, Keith Wood is a fickle man. The earliest work he produced under the name Hush Arbors was populated with a lot of oddly pitched noises. But it's possible the thrum of all those strange sounds have nothing to do with what the project will, could or even should sound like.
"My ultimate fantasy for a band would sound like the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969," says Wood, who moved to Portland last summer, in that warbly voice that's greeted listeners on each successive Hush Arbors release. "I mean, it wouldn't sound anything like that. But in my mind, doing something along those lines would be something I'd like."
Beginning more than 10 years ago, Wood's project has issued a slew of proper studio efforts and one-off tapes. Each encompasses only brief entanglements with whatever the songwriter is engaged with at the time of recording. Hush Arbors' first few dispatches hedge toward the most ambient strains of folk music, eventually bursting forth with squiggly electric guitar jams.
Gualala Blues, Wood's most recent release, draws it back to Takoma-inflected guitar pieces, works he says serve as sketches for the full-fledged band he's trying to put together. Halfway through the disc, "Point Arena Blues" crops up, whispering a melody befitting a childhood in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a place he doesn't visit too frequently. But the time Wood spent there is stamped all over Gualala.
"When Jason and I were kids, we definitely rebelled against what was around us," Wood says, referring to a shared childhood with jazz bassist Jason Ajemian, who recently went on tour with Helado Negro. "I remember turning 17 or 18 and getting back into bluegrass and old-time music and coming around to country music. It took a while, pounding out the Ramones and Black Flag, to get that out."
Perhaps those extremes—bucolic Americana and punk tirades—explain the terrain Wood has covered, including a stint in Thurston Moore's Chelsea Light Moving.
For a time, though, the unruly contrast got wrapped up and tagged as some sort of proper musical movement: "freak folk."
"I'd just bought The Wire issue that had the David Keenan 'New Weird America' article in it, and Sunburned [Hand of the Man] was on the cover," Wood says. "I'd just played a gig with Ben Chasny, opened up for him in Asheville. I'd thrown the magazine in the backseat and we went up to the mountains to go hiking the day after the gig. I pulled it out and he was like, 'What is this?' That's so funny that it takes someone who's so far away from it to actually give it a name. I don't think any of us ever thought of it as a cohesive thing."
It never quite coalesced. And with Wood moving from city to city, the ensemble that's backed him has changed as frequently as the backdrop in which it performs. The newest iteration of Hush Arbors hasn't quite fused yet. Wood says his upcoming set will comprise variants of all those solo acoustic blueprints. And while the guitarist, Sun Foot's Ron Burns, and Aaron Mullan negotiate a full-band scenario, Wood is looking to stay busy.
"I've got an English degree I've been working on for 20 years that I might try to finish," he says.
SEE IT: Hush Arbors play Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Dreamboat and WL, on Wednesday, March 16. 8:30 pm. $7. 21+.