AS RESPONSIBILITY and weeks of travel and deadlines loom over me, I am listening to Vetiver's "Belles" on repeat. The song feels, among many things, like medicine. It is a light, gentle, soothing piece of music, the kind of finger-picked country blues Led Zeppelin did with half of "Going to California" and the great "That's the Way," a subtle little song—proud too, like a brave tuft of grass dragging itself up from a crack in a city sidewalk. (Which is fitting: "Vetiver" is the name of a breed of wild grass that grows in California.)
"Bells will chiiiime," sighs Vetiver's Andy Cabic (Virginia bred, now in SF) across a damp, spongy forest bed of acoustic guitar and barely-there cello. As the song rolls through its four minutes it never rises above a whisper, but it's by no means thin or too airy or a lightweight sound; "Belles" is full, warm, and evocative of a million things I won't list, because it'll probably evoke something different for you.
The fact that the track was recorded live (for a radio broadcast) is all the more telling of what a great band Vetiver is. And the same goes for the album it comes on, the Between EP. "Belles" isn't just a rare, lucked into gem; the other four tracks are just as pretty and substantial and catchy. Not all of them are so delicate, which speaks of Cabic's range.
All this makes me sad to read the man's recent press. See, on Vetiver's first record, Cabic had a ringer, Devendra Banhart sitting in on guitar. Devendra put Vetiver on the Golden Apples of the Sun folk music comp he curated for Arthur magazine, and toured and recorded with Cabic, and all was good. All wasn't so good at the beginning of this tour, when angry fans demanded refunds for their tickets after they found out Devendra wouldn't be riding along for this one. Devendra, a damn good and creative guitarist, contributed solid things to the first Vetiver record, but, all told, it was Cabic's voice, writing, and earthy magic that made the thing what it was. Fans turning on him for going it alone further proved that the music business can be a sharky place.
But "Belles" is medicine, like I said. It's the kind of good sound that takes the acidity out of bullshit. But beyond "Belles," we've got "Been so Long," a mellow home recording with acoustic guitar and bongos. It's the record's most '60s sounding track, the kind of song that feels like wood-paneled living rooms with low coffee tables and long stalks of incense smoke trailing to the ceiling while the sun sets outside. "Busted (Broken Down Version)" and "Save Me a Place," a Lindsey Buckingham cover, are also laidback home sessions. "Maureen" is a live track. All are rustic and organic. (Is the fact that "Cabic" looks like "cabin" a coincidence?) This show will probably be more of the same; a night of good, shuffling, perfect little folk jams. And for anybody looking for a celebrity sighting, Devendra won't be there. I give you permission to put that aside and not care.