Album review: Vetiver – Up On High

Vetiver album

Vetiver album - Credit: Archant

A triumph of understated alt-folk arrangements and a warming musical kinship.

As the leading light of Vetiver, singer-songwriter Andy Cabic has ploughed a highly respectable alt-folk furrow for 15 years now.

He might be an old hand in the alt-folk camp, but Up On High is still disarming in its pleasantly worn-in feel, wrapping its metaphorical arm round you from the first listen - in contrast to 2015's denser, multi-layered Complete Strangers.

The Living End sets the scene as the record opener, bathed in the warming sway of strummed and finger-picked acoustic guitar, Cabic no doubt cognisant of the luxury at his protagonist's fingertips, noting his growing "taste for killing time".

It's no surprise that the record's basics, written on acoustic guitar, were laid down with a group of Cabic's old friends in a room in California's high desert, and finished closer to the coast in Los Angeles - its languid, intimate and unhurried atmosphere is redolent of West Coast Americana.

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Recent single To Who Knows Where is a touching, reluctant farewell, lightly brushed with soothing pedal steel guitar, melancholy organ and cymbal as if embodying a pre-dawn exit and a tender kiss on a sleeping partner's forehead.

Rubbing shoulders with melancholy moments are the likes of All We Could Want, a reflection of the calming reassurance of unspoken mutual love, set to a beautifully understated, tumbling guitar-and-drum motif.

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And things take a welcome jazz-inflected turn with Hold Tight's choppy rhythm and campfire chorals, capturing the organic immediacy of the record's inception.

From the pangs of regret in the missed opportunities of A Door Shuts Quick, through the blissful, loved-up double-header of the title track and Lost (In Your Eyes), to the gentle wistfulness of Filigree, Up On High is tender and heart-on-sleeve honest - a lean, soulful and smooth set that at first belies its equal shares of melancholia and optimism.

A deeply rewarding listen.

4/5 stars

Vetiver play Islington Academy 2 on December 17.

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