Tight Knit CD - Sub Pop
On Tight Knit, their fourth full-length effort, San Francisco's Vetiver have exorcised just about all traces of their early roots in the freak-folk movement, where songwriter and prime mover Andy Cabic rubbed professional shoulders with Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom - in fact, the band jumped ship from Banhart's Gnomonsong label. Coming on the heels of a very strong covers album, 2008ís Thing of the Past, there is an inescapable puzzlement on first listen to Tight Knit. The recording is wall to wall with a lush, gentle folk-rock that's all too prone to lull the listener into a mid-seventies daze of SoCal pothead haze.
In the demand for immediate orgasm culture of 2009, I'd wager many listeners did not be give this record a second spin (many, perhaps, won't make it through a first one). But, for the patient and committed, Tight Knit holds its own peculiar treasure. "Down from Above" is a dreamy, swirling pool of acid folk that nods (emphasis on nods) to the musical aesthetic of Six Organs of Admittance as much as it does to sixties forerunners. It's a highlight on a record where the highs are little more than whispered (but can be all the more erotic for that). Another goose-pimply moment comes with closer "At Forest Edge," a song framed so delicately it can only float and bob in the rarified ether of Farmer Dave Scher's clavinet and Thom Monahan's "treatments," and Cabic's sleepy vocals probably at their most effective here.
All too often elsewhere, alas, these same elements mire this disc in MOR hell. And when the band essay up-tempo, as on "Everyday," and "More of This" (a relatively peppy pop ditty), well, the results fall far short of what is needed here: something to leaven the prevailing low tide mood of Tight Knit. It's not that Vetiver have made a bad album - as advertised, the work here demonstrates a band with chops hitting their stride - but the overall impression one is left is of the triumph of mood over songs.
By Michael Meade