Vetiver

Vetiver

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San Francisco's Vetiver (which is a sweet kind of Indian grass that now grows in California) is the brainchild of songwriter Andy Cabic (Simple Machines). Vetiver began as a trio featuring Cabic singing and playing guitar and banjo with cellist Alissa Anderson and violinist Jim Gaylord. Savant folk prodigy Devendra Banhart joined in 2003, adding a second guitar to the mix. Produced by Cabic with Thom Monahan, Vetiver's self-titled debut is a stark yet lovely affair of shimmering acoustic melodies and intimate songs that don't mope but gush with a kind of blissful grace. Other instruments such as bass, piano, harp, and even drums are added on select tracks. The breezy, lilting textures created by the plucked and bowed strings are startling for their sonorities and timeless, shimmering resonances. Cabic's thin, reedy voice (which in some places -- "Amour Fou" is a case in point -- is reminiscent of Marc Bolan's hippy mystic period) seems to float between them rather than on top of them, and his songs, with their old-world rootsiness, are equal parts Stephen Foster, folk-blues, underground Southern music รก la Norman Blake, and just the right modicum of indie emotionalism. It makes for a beautifully odd concoction. Banhart is on board as a guitarist here, so none of his quirkiness is evident in the band's sound. But his backing vocals add a kind of radiant, somewhat otherworldly depth to the proceedings. This is an impressive, summery debut that is worth not only seeking out, but also playing until you can whistle along to it. Standout tracks include the aforementioned "Amour Fou," "Amerellie," "Luna Sea," "Belles," and "Oh Papa."

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