Andy Cabic, the man behind Vetiver, has a gift for writing memorable instrumental passages. His songs don’t have hooks, exactly – he doesn’t do much to set off the choruses, and his lead vocals are quiet and masked with a little bit of reverb. Where Vetiver’s new album, To Find Me Gone, excels is in the thirty seconds or so between verses, or the last minute of each song. After a few listens, one is likely to remember the barbed-wire twang of the guitar solo on “Won’t Be Me,” the slow chord progression on the opening “Been So Long,” and the slide guitar between verses on “The Double” over and above any of the melodies. Perhaps that feature explains why Vetiver can be so difficult to categorize: Cabic writes like a rock musician, but plays like a folk musician.
He also might be one of the best-connected men in the San Francisco music scene. Just like Vetiver’s self-titled debut album (which featured Joanna Newsom, Hope Sandoval, and My Bloody Valentine’s Colm O'Ciosoig) To Find Me Gone is a widely collaborative affair, featuring, among others, Devendra Banhart, Kevin Barker from Currituck Co., and Dave Scher from Beachwood Sparks. But, just like the debut album, this is really Cabic’s show. The contributions from his fellow musicians are muted, and are limited largely to instrumental accompaniment (although Banhart did co-write the final song on the album, “Down at El Rio”). Indeed, many of the songs feature only Cabic’s vocals and guitars, and as a result To Find Me Gone has the intimacy of a singer-songwriter record; when Cabic plugs in more expansive arrangements, however, they’re played with the competence and virtuosity of a big name super-group.
The best parts of To Find Me Gone come in small flourishes. “Been So Long,” “No One Word,” and “The Double” have an aimless charm, searching for a needle of melody in a haystack of reverb. The best two songs, “Won’t Be Me” and “Maureen,” are pop songs, but played in a laidback country-rock style. In between, songs like “The Porter” or the finale, are closer in spirit to folk, with a single guitar and a studiedly literate narrative. This is a decidedly unhurried album, and it takes a while to find the small pleasures within each song. But once you do, it’s really fantastic.
By Tom Zimpleman