There is somebody on the front cover image of Volcano Choir's
debut 'Unmap' standing in the snow wrapped up in a blanket.
Rather like German artist Joseph Beuys' performance piece
"I Like America and America Likes Me" (1974) in which he spent
three days in the Rene Block Gallery in NYC locked up in a cage
with a live coyote with only a roll of felt and a wooden staff
for comfort and protection, the VC image is a shamanistic bridge
of sorts to the wonderful music which follows.
This is music which does, indeed, wrap around like a sonic blanket,
bringing warmth to our bones in these increasingly troubled times.
There is a subtle magic in these nine compositions which, in a
blissfully unhurried way, worms its way into our consciousness
and before we know it we find ourselves as much inside the music as
we are outside listening to it (try this for yourself at home!)
Jump straight to 'Dote' for an immediate taste of enchantment. The
disembodied, breathy vocals and pulsing synths roll like mist through
a mountain valley, gently enveloping everything in its benign path.
Part reverie, part meditation, wholly beautiful.
'Mbira In The Morass' is a far more angular and abstract invention.
Both melody and rhythm are elusively defined (not unlike some of
Tom Waits' more wayward creations) but its disparate elements still
retain a curious coherence despite the ambiguous narrative.
The daft little miniature 'Cool Knowledge' (coming in at just over
a minute long), with its slippery harmonies, hillarious "Ho Hum"
bass line (very approx!) and slap-happy four-square drum beat,
demonstrates that the band has a finely-honed sense of humour too.
The intro to 'Still' sounds somewhat like an outtake from a Laurie
Anderson epic. Thereafter, layer upon layer of densely woven vocal
and instumental strands build slowly to a near-epic conclusion.
Earlier in the project 'Seeplymouth' with its jangling guitar
motifs and shuffling percussion frames a dreamlike vocal from
Bon Iver's Mr Justin Vernon. The number ends far more noisily
than it began with a coda bristling with electricity and menace.
I particularly enjoyed the delightful near-folk dance of
'Island, IS'. It chuggs along happily with Mr Vernon clearly
enjoying himself with the serpentine vocal melody and
bats-in-the belfry lyrics. Splendidly surreal!
Volcano Choir provide a tantalising map of relatively uncharted
territory. Theirs is a world more than worthy of exploration.