Album Review: Vetiver – Up On High

Vetiver is a kind of grass with a sophisticated, earthy scent and this description would be a suitably apt way to characterise the band of the same name based on the qualities of their new record Up on High. Vetiver have been ploughing a rustic furrow for for over fifteen years now and although 2015’s Complete Strangers dabbled with a more mystical, electronic sound they have never strayed far from their folksy roots. This may explain why UK Americana label Loose Music has become their new home for their latest record. As a result, the album has returned to a more simplistic interpretation of their unpretentious roots and it is fair to say that it is probably their most satisfying.

Gentle acoustic tones drift effortlessly over the opening track ‘The Living End’ and singer/songwriter Andy Cabic’s tender vocals compliment this warm ambience, which continues with ‘To Who Knows Where’. There’s certainly an end-of-summer, camp fire demeanour to these opening songs; the colourful autumnal mountain landscape on the cover helps to reinforce the refined atmosphere that is being forged here, before ‘Swaying’ takes the leisurely pace up a notch. There’s even a perceptible jangle to proceedings that brings to mind early REM. ‘Wanted, Never Ask’ also reinforces this notion but Cabic’s vocals remain suitably serene throughout, helping to retain the down-to-earth elements.  

So far then, there are structural similarities to their contemporaries such as bands like Great Lake Swimmers and possibly a danger of these being too alike. Thankfully moments like the jazzy ‘Hold Tight’ add a new dimension to proceedings and there’s a pleasing musicality to Cabic’s vocals during these moments meaning the similarities never become too palpable and there is always a pleasing surprise just around the corner; ‘Filigree’ and ‘Up on High’ add wonderfully evocative slide guitars to proceedings, enhancing the warm acoustic pleasures that the whole album induces.

The dynamism of the record may never really elevate beyond the chilled out introspection of its writing but it’s an incredibly rewarding listen as we begin to batten down the hatches and retreat into hibernation mode because here is an album that will keep you warm on the coldest of nights.

Iain Fox


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