Thursday, September 5, 2013

Volcano Choir Erupts A Sonic Smash

Volcano Choir
When someone like Justin Vernon has a side project that no longer sounds like a side project, you have to wonder whether it will start to eclipse everything else. Repave by Volcano Choir is the second album put out by Vernon and its subtle, sonically acute tracks hit home perfectly.

Joined by past and present members of Milwaukee's Collection Of Colonies Of Bees, Repave has taken a very large turn from the Bon Iver sound. Sure, the shadow of it still exists but not so much that people will resurrect the name. This is something different.

Even when it comes across as a bit inconsistent, this is an album that can easily sweep you away if you let it. Just sit back somewhere you can watch some clouds rolling overhead. Those clouds best describe the album. They float along aimlessly in one direction, just like Repave.

Repave By Volcano Choir is a diversion and direction.

Repave is an impressive second outing by a young band with experience that runs more than a mile deep. And if there is any criticism to be dished out about it or what it is trying to achieve, then that criticism can be confined to what was released first.

Byegone is a brilliant song, strong enough to eclipse everything else on the playlist by begging you to leave the familiar behind. There is no heavy-handed reason for you to do it, just the confirmation that you are competent to set out for something new. All you need is the confidence to do it.

It's almost impossible to top an indie pop composition like Byegone. The track will resonate for nearly a minute if you let it. Just don't let your playlist advance to the next song after the last note and you'll hear it linger for awhile.

Many of the songs come close to having the same kind of power. Alaskans, for example, truly sets the tone of the album. The whole change of what Vernon is going through can be heard there, quietly reflective and contemplative. It's also the track that the title came from, Repave. Fix your losses, friends.

Unlike the first album that saw the band coming together just to discover what kind of music they could make together, Repave is different. This time, they figured out everything together; not just Vernon, but everyone. It sets every inch of this outing apart. They aren't learning to be a band; they're a band.

Along with Vernon, all of them — Thomas Wincek, Matthew Skemp, Jon Mueller, and Chris Rosenau — are peaking as musicians. Some of the standout tracks include the quiet of Tiderays, the subtle defiance of Acetone, and the uplift inside Comrade (below). Don't worry if those sound disjointed. Listening to the entire album carries its own sense of balance.

It's this sense of balance that brings the band together. Vernon himself has repeated over and over again that his work on Volcano Choir is more confined as a lyricist and singer. There isn't any reason not to believe him, especially given how sonically experimental this album can be.

Repave By Volcano Choir Touches 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There is so much restraint and so little release on Repave that it sometimes feels both trapping and freeing at the same time. That in itself is perfect. If anything, that is exactly what this album is about.

You can find Repave by Volcano Choir at Amazon or download it from iTunes. You can also find the CD at Barnes & Noble. Considering it has been almost four years since the band released their Unmap debut, this one is right in time. The openness of the work will no doubt translate during their live performances as they share stories about change, sadness, loss, and attempting to become something better than they are — even if they never considered that they could be. Fill that hole.
blog comments powered by Disqus