With their second album Rites of Uncovering Arbouretum gained a host of fans with a fascinating mix of psych rock jams and plaintive country-tinged folk that tapped some elemental, earthy essence in a similar way to Lungfish’s meditative, primal take on post-hardcore. Forward to the present and the group’s fourth album The Gathering, just released on Thrill Jockey, retains less of the nuance that made the 2007 effort great, with most tracks offering a similar bassy, fuzzed-out sound whether in the slower, melodic moments or locked into the bluesy grooves, however this is rife for revelling in live. The hooks and melodies are now broader but they still have the ability to reel you in and, importantly, the solos are still great so with the album returning to extended song lengths after the more restricted timeframes of 2009’s lighter Song of the Pearl, this gig could have jammed on happily for hours.
The basement at Jam (naturally) is a muddy, bassy environment at the best of times, but with the sound Arbouretum now grind out it was near impossible to determine the difference between a lot of keyboard, bass and guitar work throughout, excepting for when the music developed into lead guitar passages, but this worked effectively enough for the rocking heads of the crowd present. The band played The Gathering in pretty much it’s entirety starting with “Waxing Crescents” and moving through tracks including “Destroying to Save” and the joyfully upbeat “The Empty Shell”. The slower moments were not left out including the album’s most close, ballady offering “Highwayman”, a Jimmy Webb cover and admittedly a weaker point of the album but here done decent justice, and also “When Delivery Comes”, which managed to punch it’s heart nicely through the buzz. The set was at it’s high points though in the longer tracks like the album bookends: opener “The White Bird” and space-dirge closing number “Song of the Nile”, locked into steady grooves, the guitar solo leading the way but with each member active and engaging.