Vetiver - To Find Me Gone [Fat Cat - 2006]Freak Folk. A designation I have never been particularly fond of. I mean, aren't there countless entities that are far freakier in their approach of folk than the bands and artists that are generally lumped into the category? I think so. Nevertheless, I have followed the
paths of Animal Collective, Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart (overhyped, but a good musician) and the likes with a lot of interest. Freak Folk, apocryphal in name only, has produced a slew of good, even great albums that frequently made it to my yearlists.
Lately, however, I have found that my interest in the scene (don't tell me it's not a scene with all the guest appearances and name-dropping) has decreased a bit. Enter Vetiver, with the follow-up to their 2004 self-titled debut album. Songwriter Andy Cabic has crafted a record that breaks with all the clichés that trouble the genre.Patrick Toepoel
To Find Me Gone sees Vetiver take a step back from the extravagant nature of freak folk, only to focus on introverted rocksongs with a definite singer/songwriter feel. Credit where credit is due as far as the excellent band is concerned (which features, among others, Banhart and Otto Hauser of Espers on drums), but To Find Me Gone could have just been released under Andy Cabic's own name. When I first listened to it, the album didn't really grab me. After a couple of spins, however, I could hardly get enough of it. This is surely one of those cases where a quick online streamed mp3 listen will get you nowhere.
When I finally got into it, I found that the album harbors a myriad of good songs. No One Word, for example, is the quintessential singer/songwriter folk song, recalling Nick Drake though its lush string arrangements. Most of the songs here are rather quiet and calm, but there are more upbeat ones as well. The catchy retro-country of Won't Be Me certainly qualifies, as well as the sweet Idle Ties, which
brings to mind powerful images of the American countryside.
I'm a bit hesitant to use the word 'country' in this case, but listen to I Know No Pardon and you'll know this is the real deal. The Porter finds Vetiver at their most stripped down, giving Cabic the chance to really shine as a singer/songwriter. He doesn't disappoint. Which is true of the song Double as well, where he is at his most fragile, singing with the same quiet softness that marked Sufjan Stevens on certain tracks from his Seven Swans album.
Red Lantern Girl stands out as the most eccentric and dynamic song of the album. This is more in line with what we've come to expect from a (in this case former) freak folk entity. Rather than being an unwelcome relic from a bygone age, this actually works very nicely in the context of this excellent album.
Will this be remembered as the record that gave new life to the stagnating freak folk genre, or will it be a testament of a lone band that knew when it was time to move on? Listening to Andy Cabic's new piece of work, these grand, consequential things carry very little meaning. When all is said and done, To Find Me Gone simply stands as a very enjoyable album on its own.