Volcano Choir - Repave | Album Review | By Volume

...was fond of your writing, it allowed me to see into you... The Hotelier - Discomfort Revisited

Volcano Choir


The heart and soul of Justin Vernon.

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Author: on September 13, 2013
September 3, 2013

It is extremely fitting that Volcano Choir vocalist Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) describes his primal need to make music with his side-project as such: “I’ve developed this thing where I just need this band. My body, mind, and heart lean toward Volcano Choir…” As a listener, you can feel this desire pretty tangibly when listening to their first record Unmap, and with the band’s recent expansion, and their sophomore LP Repave, this resonance has just grown. I mean in no way to intimate that Vernon’s work as Bon Iver is anything less than incredibly touching and entrancing with its ethereal melodies and his exceptional voice – just, he feels more comfortable with Volcano Choir. Maybe it is the collaborative effort in the band’s self-production of their records. With Repave in specific Vernon didn’t record a lick of instrumentation, preferring to hone his efforts into his vocal work and sampling – which is another aspect to Repave that is somewhat new for the band. A surprising number of the album’s tracks are built off cleverly subtle sampling and production effects, but their touch behind the boards is so deft, one will be hard pressed to connect the dots from sample to its forebear.

Granted none of this really matters when it comes to the pillow-soft melodies and intricate vocal dubs of Repave. Volcano Choir have a very different essence to them compared to what Vernon does with his main gig, but make no mistake: this is a Justin Vernon project and in the end has more than a few similarities to Bon Iver.  Though,  Justin’s output on For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver, Bon Iver, was akin to a walk in the wilderness (the former after a light snow the latter in a vibrant spring) – Volcano Choir are closer to a piping hot spring, steaming away during a torrential blizzard. It is pretty easy to get lost in Volcano Choir’s music, Repave in particular has a penchant for wandering, yet the songs never stray far from their blistering hooks. And they pile up in droves during Repave.

“Comrade” is gorgeously driving with its rotating synths, “Alaskans” is exquisitely serene as Vernon pleads for us to “behave, behave, behave”, peaking with closer “Almanac”, a sky bound epic of a pop track, culminating in multiple layers of Vernon’s voice echoing into the dissonance as the drums pound, the guitars wail and the synths cascade. It is one of the finer pieces of music the already accomplished artist has produced, and you can damn near taste the genuine emotion placed into the track by Volcano Choir, it’s brilliant. Though this can be said for most of Repave, even as it has some drawbacks (can be slightly snoozy), the record is just shy of forty-minutes long, at a miniscule eight tracks – similar to the cover art, Repave passes by like a light wave. Enough force to shift you about, providing some effortless fun, but it will leave as quickly as it entered. Fear not though, just wait for a moment and Repave will pass back around, and it’s just as sweet each and every time.

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