By Jared Hemming
The most powerful element of Repave is it’s turbulence, lack of repetitive order, and surprising swells.
With Volcano Choir’s second album, Repave, songwriter and vocalist Justin Vernon accomplishes the rare feat of quality rising above quantity. No short order considering that, from the time the creative force behind Bon Iver splashed across endless blogs with For Emma, Forever Ago in 2008, the barrage of content that’s arrived since includes: a second album (and Grammy award) for Bon Iver, collaborations with Kanye West, Anaïs Mitchell, Gayngs, The Shouting Matches, The Eau Claire Memorial Jazz I Ensemble, a hilarious erotic series, and, of course, Volcano Choir’s debut: Unmap.
For this sophomore effort as Volcano Choir, Vernon once again calls pals (and fellow Wisconsinites) Collections of Colonies of Bees for another round. This time to record a soulful batch of tunes soaked in Vernon’s rich baritone. Though artists in similar alt-folk/indie rock molds may have attempted something more bona fide to the genera; Volcano Choir have clearly avoided some acoustic-guitar swells, strained vocals, and winding legatos that have defined other artists this year. Instead, they opt for varied and expansive sound-scapes and occasional surprises to include both acoustic and jarring electric guitars, swirls and blips of synthesizer and electric piano, an ocean-bottom bass and deep waves of splashing, powerful percussion. The most powerful element of Repave is it’s turbulence, lack of repetitive order, and surprising swells.
Though at times clarity can be difficult to discern from complicated lyricism and the spontaneity of composition, Repave positions Vernon on the horizon of a mature voyage still propelled by urgency and mystery. Take, for example, in “Acetate,” when he sings “you found me on the beach, I was resting there for weeks/I will never cauterize, I will never fortify/I wonder if I’ve recovered now.” Recording double-tracked vocals, Vernon sings these words as though he is in an argument with himself, having just realized a pain and hoping he’s finally awoken from it.