Vetiver 

Vetiver

Each decade, a new alt-folk scene springs up in the Bay Area, and each time it has a fresh spin. In the '80s, artists like the Donner Party, Harm Farm, and Carmaig DeForest imbued their folk tunes with jangly college rock. In the '90s, the Buckets, Richard Buckner, and Tarnation draped their songs in country twang. But the current folk revival is decidedly weirder -- less apt to adhere to traditional song structures or lyrical themes, eschewing conventional instruments, veering off into its own made-up worlds.

While SF trio Vetiver isn't as emotionally rich as Jolie Holland or as bizarre as Fiji Mermaid, Devendra Banhart, or Joanna Newsom (though the latter two guest-star on this self-titled debut), the band fits nicely alongside its contemporaries. Many of Vetiver's songs feature only Andy Cabic's acoustic guitar, Alissa Anderson's cello, and Jim Gaylord's violin -- an unorthodox combination that lends a "classical musicians recording on a back porch" feel. (Even when former My Bloody Valentiner Colm O'Ciosoig provides drums on two tracks, he plays as unobtrusively as possible.) Cabic sings in an unadorned, backwoods style that's strikingly similar to Ohio folkie Bill Fox -- one that doesn't exhibit the most range, but perfectly fits Vetiver's bucolic vibe. (During "Without a Song," Cabic even stamps his foot on the floor to create a bridge.)

Cabic's lyrics feel like jigsaw puzzles full of ruminative poetry like When I see the people standing there/Shy cerebral in the lonely air/Disenchanted stony-eyed/Bored to tears but dry inside. Even when he's more straightforward -- the more narratively minded "Arboretum," the Banhart co-written love mantra "Amour Fou" -- the lines stitch together like patches on a crazy quilt. But there's nothing wrong with acting crazy or making quilts: That's kind of what this whole new folk movement is all about.

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