Volcano Choir - Repave

There’s an all-too slippery nature at the core of many of the songs.

Volcano Choir is Bon Iver main man Justin Vernon’s project with the members of Wisconsin post-rock band Collections Of Colonies Of Bees. They’ve already made one album of, yep that’s right, hazy, pastoral anthems and now they’re back with album number two.

The fact that Vernon’s voice is so distinctive means it’s difficult to distinguish this from his Bon Iver work yet there’s more than enough shimmering beauty here to get excited about. They’ve talked in the lead up to this album of feeling more like a band here than they did on debut ‘Unmap’ and there’s a definite feeling of the music feeling more coloured.

Indeed just as Bon Iver’s second album was less stripped down than ‘For Emma…’ the best moments here are when the songs strike more immediately at the heart. Nowhere is this more apparent than on ‘Dancepack’ where a punchy rhythm gives way to chiming guitars and TV on the Radio-like vocals and the repeated refrain ‘Take note, there is still a hole in your heart’ leaves an indelible mark.

That’s not to say the focus isn’t still on textured, glistening hymns. ‘Alaskan’s plucked guitar and echoing vocals with Vernon singing ‘I’m talking real love’ is full of aching hearts and snatches of gentle reverb. ‘Almanac’’s electronic pulses and lazy drumming also produces another highlight with the vocals overlayed, the track one of sparkling beauty.

But if there’s a complaint it’s that there’s maybe too much restraint here, not enough release. ‘Byegone’ builds up with crunchy guitars and perfectly still piano but never lets loose. It needs catharsis from the beauty and heartbreak that the songs build towards.

There’s a slippery nature to these ghostly tracks of sadness and loss and that makes them feel hard to get into the middle of, they never envelop, rather flicker at the sides.

‘Acetate’ with its rolling drums and dulcet piano twinkling shows where they could go; the band playing off each other; the whole they’ve talked of. ‘Comrades’ does it too, although loses points for its use of autotune.

When it does that this it’s the sound of a band blossoming; of redemption and repaving. On ‘Byegone’ Vernon sings ‘He’s a legend, I’m a legend’ – not yet you’re not but sometimes you’re getting pretty close.

Tags: Volcano Choir, Reviews, Album Reviews

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