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Volcano Choir - Erupting
on 9 September 2013
If the name Bon Iver conjures up a musical image of high falsetto over gentile melancholy then "Repave" the new album by Volcano Choir will come as a surprise. This band are a mix of both the songwriting skills of Justin Vernon and members of the indie folk outfit Collections of Colonies of Bees and now sound less like a side project and more of a fully formed rock unit. The album has Vernon trading crunching riffs and singing in deep tones but for those of you who loved the Bon Iver project and particularly his more expansive second album there is nothing on "Repave" which will grate or irritate. Indeed there are some mighty good songs contained therein and with the "Bon Iver" project essentially on hold or even drawing to a close this is a very worthy new direction and a considerable step up from 2009s more experimental "Unmap".
Check out the brilliant opener "Tiderays" builds from a church like organ to gentle acoustics followed by biting guitars giving a firm foundation to its rich choruses. You could of course pick the vocals out of a line up, however it is a deeper timbre that Vernon uses on "Acetate" which is considerably assisted by the massed voices of his colleagues guitarist Chris Rosenau and drummer Jon Mueller where they all declare "But I won't beg for you on acetate/I won't crawl on you to validate". The song "Batpack" is the first single off the album although it is "Alaskans" which steals the show as the albums centre-point. Here Vernon alternates between baritone and his smallest falsetto. The song appears to touch all bases of human emotion not least concluding with a sample of Charles Bukowski reading a poem from a documentary shown on French television. The most un Bon Iver moment here is "Dancepack" rooted with the lyric "Take note/there is still a hole in your heart" it is powerful and would not be out of kilter on a Arcade Fire album. Finally the big closer to the album is the six minute plus "Almanac" which shift shapes all over the musical map and is meaty multi layered anthem well deserving of the download button.
On the evidence of "Repave" Volcano Choir are no mere footnote to another more well known musical collective. Vernon himself has openly stated that he only played one guitar riff on the whole album and the presence of an experienced and expert band of musicians has allowed him to concentrate on lyrics and vocals. The result is a lush layered album with echoes of that expansive Canadian Rock of bands like Broken Social Scene but with enough of Vernon's distinctive musical trademarks to demand that you watch in awe as the volcano erupts.