I remember being very impressed by Devendra Banhart's backing band, the Hairy Fairies, when I saw him play last year at the Somerville Theater. I was especially blown away by their lead guitarist, Noah Georgeson, who I later found out produced Joanna Newsom's beautiful album The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City, 2004). Georgeson's playing that night was inspiring for me, framing Banhart's wavering voice with slices of angular electric currents, often adding mini-improvisations within the songs' melodies. Also in the band was the guitarist Andy Cabic, whose other band Vetiver I've been listening to alot recently.
Vetiver's self-titled album came out in 2004 on the DiCristina label. About the only thing I knew of them was Banhart's lyric that goes: "When the sun shone on Vetiver..." The album's been growing on me as I keep listening to its acoustic, wooded landscape. There's a great song co-written in Spanish with Banhart called "Los Pajaros del Rio," which manages to make Cabic's mispronunciations complement the already sweet melody. I'm especially drawn to a song called "Arboretum" that begins in an almost prose-like manner:
"Some mornings I drive to the university with Dwight.
Our route leads through the arboretum.
Oh, one of Seattle's superb parks, the arboretum's 250 acres
are artfully planted with shrubs from all over the world.
And in spring the lawns are splashed with flowering cherries..."
Which reminds me of the countless hours I myself spent in the Botanical Gardens of USF in the early 90s. My friend M. used to like to go there and sit up in the branches of orange trees, from where the noise and exhaust fumes of North Tampa would recede, and you were left only with the sound of the wind through the leaves and the citrus aroma that stayed on your clothes long after you'd left the gardens. Or, there was the Flatwoods State Forest a few miles outside Tampa, where the Hillsborough River winds into an alligator-infested labyrinth of oaks, pines and palm trees. This song reminds me of those hours of wooded silence, the grace and shadow patterns of those trees, glimpses of what might have made the Spanish give Florida its name.
Cabic's voice usually blends into the acoustic guitars, banjo and violin of the music, and in that way it almost mimics the lush undergrowth of the arboretum he evokes. His approach emphasizes the slow delineation of sparse, acoustic tunes, with a constant undercurrent of pleasure-inducing melodies. There are fragments here that remind me of George Harrison's pastoral leanings during parts of All Things Must Pass, an album I grew up on and which I've yet to wear out on my stereo.