Hew’s Review: Volcano Choir’s “Repave”
Matthew Niendorf | Monday, September 2, 2013
When the mastermind and frontman of Bon Iver Justin Vernon announced in late 2012 that the band would be going on hiatus, it seemed the Indie music world was left slightly empty. From 2007 onwards Bon Iver set a new standard for Indie folk, flawlessly weaving tracks of stark simplicity with ones of brutal complexity to make revolutionary albums. The one deficiency in Bon Iver’s career is that it only produced two full-length albums, “For Emma, Forever Ago” in 2007 and “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” in 2011. Despite this uncertain future, there is hope for the Indie world: Vernon’s band Volcano Choir.
While fans of Bon Iver wait for the reentry of the band into the music scene, they can for the time enjoy Vernon’s side project, Volcano Choir, which could in fact turn into his main musical focus. Volcano Choir was formed in 2009 with the release of its first album, “Unmap,” which is certainly a sophisticated album relative to the genre but falls short of the lyricism produced by Vernon on “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Volcano Choir’s newest album, “Repave,” overcomes the faults of “Unmap” to become a worthy companion to the heralded works of Bon Iver. “Repave” is simply haunting, beginning with the whirling of an organ that slowly becomes overshadowed by the gentle acoustic guitar of Vernon. And then it begins: Vernon gently sings, “We wake up” as the cadence picks up, then the song becomes awash with the familiar Bon Iver elements: auto-tuning, sporadic flourishes of heavy drums and Vernon’s layered back-up vocals. After finishing the first track “Tiderays,” listeners can rest assured that although Bon Iver may never make music again, the musical style itself lives on.
While the album does not necessarily reinvent the genre, “Repave” takes risks and pushes pre-existing components to limits even Bon Iver was not willing to try. The electronic manipulation of vocals intertwined with the distortion of guitars provides a sufficient base from which Vernon’s unsettling but (mostly) profound lyrics may be cast. The result is an immensely satisfying display of grandiose musicianship. The music of “Repave” is often overwhelming, and the themes at first seem meandering and disjointed. However, the album leaves listeners with perfect contentedness, as it suddenly seems to manage the chaos at its very close. Bon Iver could sadly be finished for good, but after listening to “Repave” solace is found.
When to listen: After we lose our first football game, so probably this month.
Where to listen: On your friend’s futon, the one he bought from Target because it was cheap and looked cool, but it has that weird fold in the middle that makes it practically unusable. On second thought, go out and lay on the quad.
What to eat when you listen: Pretzels. Not because they’re on the album or anything, but because, hey, who doesn’t like pretzels?
Who to talk after you listen: Unless they’ve listened, the answer is no one, because they probably won’t want to hear about how that Pangborn girl they just met at Domerfest is going to break their heart in Alaska.
Contact Matthew Niendorf at firstname.lastname@example.org