Arbouretum @ Jam, Brighton 18.03.11

There's an air almost of a secret gathering in Jam's tiny low-ceilinged basement (why almost zilch local advertising?), but it all adds to the intimate feel as Arbouretum amble on stage, offer a laconic greeting from David Heuman ("Hello - we're Arbouretum from Baltimore, USA") then dive gloriously into ‘Waxing Crescents’ from new album The Gathering, culminating in a blistering drum finale from Buck Carey.

Mar 18th, 2011 at Jam, Brighton / By Norman Miller
Arbouretum They may look like a cliche of stonerdom with the check shirts and various degrees of hairiness - Corey Allender's beard in particular being as magnificent as his bass playing. But over the next hour Arbouretum show sharpness and superb musicianship that speaks of years of honing what they do and caring about it.

The songs come across even better live than on the albums, a mark not just of quality but the joie de gig of the band, even when playing to just a few dozen (appreciative) punters. They're happy to lower the tempo with ‘When Delivery Comes’ before a supremely confident version of ‘The White Bird’ adorned with fine guitar from Heumann. An almost punky ‘The Empty Shell’ follows, before the band display depths by giving ‘Song Of The Nile’ a hint of Eastern exoticness.

‘False Spring’ - a welcome nod back to 2009's Song Of The Pearl - brings the normal set to an end with another impassioned solo from Heumann, before the band show their confidence by opting for the slower tempo beauty of ‘Highwayman’ as an encore rather than anything showy.

Arbouretum quietly fuse a host of genres - folk and blues as well as classic 70s rock - within a deceptively simple space-rock template. Let's hope other gigs bring the bigger audiences they deserve.