Monday, October 12, 2009

Cyclic Defrost Magazine

Cyclic Defrost Magazine

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Volcano Choir – Unmap (Jagjaguwar/Inertia)

Posted: 12 Oct 2009 04:25 PM PDT

One would hesitate to say that this is the latest offering from Justin Vernon (aka the infamous Bon Iver), because whilst his fingerprints are all over this record, it is undoubtedly a collective effort. Volcano Choir draws on a group of Vernon’s friends, all fellow Wisconsin inhabitants who share his penchant for spending a lot of time indoors experimenting with sound and recording equipment. Although this is the Volcano Choir’s debut release, the project predates the Bon Iver recordings, and after several years of off-on collaboration, consolidated their creative efforts in recording this album in November 2008.

‘Husks and Shells’ certainly introduces the "choir" in its most literal sense, with lush, multi-layered harmonies perched delicately over gorgeous acoustic guitar and fuzzy electronics. This track leads effortlessly into ‘Seeplymouth’, another textured composition with repetitive instrumental motifs and vocal samples reminiscent of minimalism at times, then moving into territory trodden most recently by Boards of Canada and the like. ‘And Gather’, a later track on the record, also strongly references early works of Steve Reich with melismatic vocals and analogue clapping samples providing the song’s framework. Lyrics are reasonably secondary in the grand scheme of things, but even if you don’t catch them after several listens, their meaning is possibly immaterial. What is most important for this music are the sounds and inflections of the words, woven into the various falsettos, vocoder treatments and loose harmonies invested throughout the album.

Moving through Unmap, it is clear that each track is very much underpinned by a strong sense of momentum, often assisted by subtle shifts in pitch, texture and density. This makes for a recording that on first listening may appear a little same-y in places, but repeated listenings reveal a musical intuition rarely so crafted in other collaborative efforts.

Melonie Bayl-Smith

Volcano Choir – Unmap (Jagjaguwar/Inertia) is a post from: Cyclic Defrost Magazine.