To Find Me Gone
||"I Know No Pardon"
Folk music has always been about big characters, luminous, otherworldly
personalities, eccentrics--freaks who f**k around in forests
with their folk--rebellious, idealistic, and so compelling too.
And sometimes, if you were lucky, there'd even be a photographer
there to capture the whole scene for an album cover. From Shirley
Collins to the Incredible String Band or Jackson C. Frank or Fairport
Convention or Bert Jansch, each of these artists made music so
intriguing it was only challenged by their own personal mythologies.
So surely, when the Folk Revival 2: Acoustic Boogaloo rolled into
town back in '03, it wouldn't have had the impact that it did
if people like Devendra and Joanna Newsom, or the boys in Animal
Collective, weren't so goddamned larger than life. In this light,
one could forgive me for only picking up Vetiver's brilliant under-the-radar
self-titled '04 debut because the sticker said Devendra was on
it. And you know I wouldn't be writing in this update if I wasn't
at least somewhat a completist.
Shame on me. Interestingly enough, that little record has stood
the test of time better than just about every other one from its
contemporaries. Vetiver is essentially Andy Cabic's baby, and
the man is nothing if not a master of understatement. Vetiver
songs like "Oh Papa," and "Angel's Share"
and "Farther On" all drift by on a breeze of finger-picked
acoustic guitar notes and hushed vocals. If you blinked, you'd
miss 'em. In so many ways, he is the anti-Devendra. It's no wonder
the two are such good friends. Everybody needs a sideman. So of
course, Cabic is an essential member of Devendra's band, barely
breaking a sweat, perpetually behind his six-string Martin, fully
dressed, while a half-naked Devendra attempts channeling the revolution
that got televised, but f**k it anyway
When Vetiver dropped a spellbinding little EP last year titled,
Between, I got the first hint that Cabic might be due for
his close-up. However, it's on Vetiver's exquisite new record,
To Find Me Gone, where he really steps into his own. Gone
is a luscious paean to string instruments and broken hearts, to
the road, and to time too. It's a record that mesmerizes in its
ability to capture that moment when you realize someone you once
loved, an ex, a friend, someone you knew so well, has now become
something of a stranger. The road will do that to a person, so
it's no wonder that Cabic himself describes this album as a "road"
record. And like most great road records, Cabic brings all his
newfound influences into the pot. Where Vetiver's guitar
and string arrangements often felt tense and baroque, Gone
feels free to wonder. Liberated. Tracks like "You May Be
Blue" and "Idle Ties" are all sweaty full-band
grooves, heavy on Rhodes keys and grainy pedal steel, webs of
acoustic and electric guitar tones, cellos, violins, and even
some ukuleles too. No '70s influence is left unturned--the Velvet's
infectious minimalism, the earthiness of the Band, the poignancy
and playfulness of a Harry Nilsson. It's all there.
And then there's a new version of "Been So Long"--the
wistful, sexy standout off the Between EP. Re-recording
this song's simple acoustic arrangement could've been tantamount
to Lucas f**king with the original Star Wars. And yet,
here, "Been So Long," recast as a slow-burning, raga-ballad,
is as nostalgic and revelatory as ever. Cabic's got people like
Currituck Co's Kevin Barker and Otto Hauser behind him (and yes
Devendra too!), as he wisely sidesteps going the whole stripped-down
Nick Drake/Vashti thing that's getting more than a bit tired.
He's making a road record, so why not stretch his wings? Plus,
with all these newfound colors, he knows he doesn't need to hide
behind eccentricity to sell it. Beautiful grooves are an end onto
themselves. And yes, it's still folk music. One of 2006's Best.