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.
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Interesting album, a bit of a late night burner, that with more playing and a glass of Vino gets a lot better (the more wine you drink the better the album sounds) the playing is warm and gentle, but with enough suden changes to keep you focused, if your a fan of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes then dont think this is anything like there last long players, as this is a completely different baby, and we all need change....and this is a good one!
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Beautiful. If you like Bon Iver you'll love this, slightly darker and perhaps slightly more inaccessible but incredible all the same. This is an album I turn to again and again when I'm in varying moods and it always sees me right. Saw VC live some time ago and that definitely brought this album alive for me, their passion for music is evident in this album along with their live performances and that combined with Justin Vernon's trademark vocal arrangements make for a brilliant album.