Album Reviews

Vetiver – Tight Knit

(Bella Union) UK release date: 2 March 2009

Vetiver - Tight Knit What is it with Devendra Banhart? He’s everywhere. On every ‘psych folk’ album you hear, finding the next big thing in the ‘alt-folk’ genre, lending his all knowing ears and knowledge to the whole of the music world.

And here he is again, on Vetiver‘s promotional pages as an occasional collaborator. But Banhart has been left at home for the band’s fourth album, Tight Knit, a sweet, cheery and summery collection of folk tunes that sometimes verges on a more commercial surfy sound akin to Jack Johnson while still remaining on the right side of lovely.

The surfy sound in question is at its richest in Everyday; simple and soft, with a beautiful rounded bass and minimal percussion that nods to early Simon and Garfunkel or stripped down Beach Boys. It’s a different sound to the rest of the album, which stays truer to its folky routes and shows that Banhart’s aura is still lingering.

Take opening track Rolling Sea – a twinge of Ryan Adams, a pinch of The Band, a squeeze of the laid back side of San Francisco, the band’s home. It’s a song to slump into a worn-out yet still comfy armchair for, with its easy melody, dreamy steel guitar and the sleepy vocals of Mr Vetiver himself, Adam Cabic.

But Cabic, who played most of the instruments of the album himself, said he wanted every song to create a different mood. Although this album lacks the balls that some Vetiver fans hope for, he has fulfilled his ambition, to a degree. Throughout there are the dreamy vocals and relaxed rhythms, but every song has different influences pulling them in different directions.

Vetiver’s musical gods are obviously important to them (or to songwriter Cabic), given their penchant for cover versions. And in this offering you can taste the essence of some ’70s classic rock – the rounded vocals, like Paul Rogers or Jack Bruce, the occasional snippet of an elecro-ish instrument, as well as the countryness and folk, sounding like it’s winding down from its ’67-’74 heyday.

It’s heard none so more than in Through The Front Door, a country folk ballad with the innocence of a raw and repetitive riff. It’s a gem, yet worlds away from the ambient quality of Down From Above.

A Casio keyboard-like percussion intro for On The Other Side suddenly makes your ears prick up. Yes, it’s still dreamy and rhythmic, but with a more exciting melody, verging on the Eels at points, with Cabic’s more rusty singing style. And Another Reason To Go, with its ’70s disco strum, clavinova and distant horns, like they’re playing in the corner of a soul club, is a walk down another road. It brings you back to the same Vetiver park, but a scenic trip out and about.

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More on Vetiver
Vetiver – Complete Strangers
Vetiver @ XOYO, London
Vetiver – The Errant Charm
Vetiver – Tight Knit
Vetiver @ Spitz, London