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Volcano Choir - Repave Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.25
Musicianship 8.25
Lyrics 8.25
Production 8.25
Creativity 8.25
Lasting Value 8.25
Reviewer Tilt 8.25
Final Verdict: 83%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.92
Musicianship 9.42
Lyrics 9.33
Production 9.33
Creativity 9.58
Lasting Value 9.54
Reviewer Tilt 9.75
Average: 96%

Volcano Choir - Repave

Reviewed by: Ryan Dennehy (09/03/13)
Volcano ChoirRepave
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
Release Date: September 3rd, 2013


However despondent I may have felt at the news that Justin Vernon had no plans for the immediate future regarding Bon Iver, he has not left me wanting for more material. Ranging from everything to guest spots on rap opuses and disappointments to pleasantly forgettable blues rock outings, Vernon has kept himself busy maintaining his eclectic visibility. On Repave, he teams up with the post rock outfit Collections of Colonies of Bees as Volcano Choir to follow up their underrated 2009 collaboration Unmap. Where that record was clearly about experimenting with expectations and used Vernon’s voice primarily as another tool, Repave is more fleshed out, taking greater advantage of Vernon and is closer to a sequel to Bon Iver, Bon Iver than we had any right to expect this soon.

That Volcano Choir has begun to drift closer to the sounds of Bon Iver is easily understood - the three records produced under that name have become the indie world’s center of gravity, pulling in countless listeners with an inexorable, undeniable force. Volcano Choir sees Vernon and his Bees compatriots write songs that sound deceptively like Bon Iver songs, until you begin to pick apart the pieces and tinker with what holds them together. Where the expansion of Bon Iver into a massive performance group enthralled us with their traditional abilities, Volcano Choir mimics certain aesthetic components of Bon Iver without becoming a clone. The subtle 80s worship that came to a head on polarizing “Beth/Rest” is replaced part and parcel with a modern grasp of sparse, minimalist electronics that crop up throughout. The “experimental pop” tag applied to their debut still holds, and has in actuality only grown more true on Repave. By pushing Vernon to the forefront of the music, gently emphasizing his vocals, the record distracts from the intricately turning cogs that power and set the tumbling instruments into motion.

That he is a “distraction” is not a slight against Vernon, and if anything it is a compliment; his rumbling in the depths of “Tiderays” and the guttural decay of his baritone on “Comrade” are among the thrilling diversions. But the emphasis on Vernon certainly has its drawbacks, as his lyrics are given more attention than they have been on nearly any of his own records. He is an ardent believer in “melody over lyrics,” something which would be apparent to anyone who read along with the loose image association he used in the past. The clumsy lyrics were forgivable because they were often indecipherable and serviced the atmosphere with aplomb, but Repave’s most significant flaw is Vernon’s simplistic writing. The triumphant bombast of “Byegone”s declaration of himself as a legend is undercut by lines like “you met me at the north end of monogamy” and the tedious observation that “with enough keif you could really bore someone.” Thankfully for “Byegone,” Vernon sings “set sail” with the gusto you might expect from someone who believed his voice to be the only wind available for the ship to catch. And album closer “Almanac” continues to show Vernon falling prey to lyrical pitfalls, though hints of his Watch The Throne-stylized funk make a cameo.

The upwardly lilting guitar licks of “Comrade” are sampled and stitched together for what seems like the entire song, before bursting into a resplendent synthesizer line that could almost serve as the climax for the entire record; were it not followed by the vocal denouement at the end of the track. “Keel” heats the surface with roiling energy of rattling instruments before suddenly dissipating into a sense of placidity once again, a stark illustration of the unpredictable manner in which the band operates to defy expectations. The reading of a Bukowski piece at the close of “Alaskans” is from left-field yet entirely suited to the songs ethereal malaise.

When Bon Iver released For Emma, Forever Ago, there was hardly a suspicion as to what Justin Vernon was capable of. Now, six years on, it’s clear that Repave continues to reap what was first sown on “The Wolves (Act I & II).” The spiritual, if not official, successor to Bon Iver, Bon Iver arrives with typical Vernon-esque grandiosity but comes in a distinctly new form, replete with the inclusion of new influences and hues of Vernon's recent output. . It avoids becoming a self-important deviation from Bon Iver without simply imitating its success. Repave is integral to retroactively understanding Vernon's canon and also establishes a path forward from the runaway success of his past.



8.25/10

Additional InformationTrack Listing:1. Tiderdays
2. Acetate
3. Comrade
4. Byegone
5. Alaskans
6. Dancepack
7. Keel
8. Almanac
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 35
09:27 PM on 09/03/13
#2
phaynes1
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Great write-up. Really need to fucking listen to this already.
09:29 PM on 09/03/13
#3
contra11mundum
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Weird that you site the lyrics as the weakest point, but rate them equally to all other aspects of the album. Either way, this album deserves a much higher score. Truly remarkable work of art.
09:31 PM on 09/03/13
#4
tacosforcharles
it all ends
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Good review. I can see why the lyrics may be an issue for some, but I like the simplistic imagery he goes for here. It suits the feel of the music quite well.
09:32 PM on 09/03/13
#5
tacosforcharles
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Weird that you site the lyrics as the weakest point, but rate them equally to all other aspects of the album. Either way, this album deserves a much higher score. Truly remarkable work of art.
When will anyone realize that most reviewers on here put the same score for each category? It really doesn't fucking matter.
09:47 PM on 09/03/13
#6
contra11mundum
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When will anyone realize that most reviewers on here put the same score for each category? It really doesn't fucking matter.
I'm sorry, bud.
09:53 PM on 09/03/13
#7
tacosforcharles
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Didn't mean it to come off as a personal attack, I just see it in almost every review thread and I'm getting a little annoyed. Nothing against you, man.
10:01 PM on 09/03/13
#8
contra11mundum
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Didn't mean it to come off as a personal attack, I just see it in almost every review thread and I'm getting a little annoyed. Nothing against you, man.
Haven't noticed, myself. Anyways, I saw that you're going to the show on the 28th in another thread. We can put the dispute behind us over a glass of beer and a breathtaking concert. I'll be there too.
10:27 PM on 09/03/13
#9
Jake Denning
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Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit, this is so good.
10:37 PM on 09/03/13
tacosforcharles
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Haven't noticed, myself. Anyways, I saw that you're going to the show on the 28th in another thread. We can put the dispute behind us over a glass of beer and a breathtaking concert. I'll be there too.
Should be a great time, it'll be my first time seeing Justin live. A dream I've had for about 5 years now, haha.
10:49 PM on 09/03/13
contra11mundum
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Should be a great time, it'll be my first time seeing Justin live. A dream I've had for about 5 years now, haha.
Same.
04:37 AM on 09/04/13
blinkeatworld
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Higher score than pitchfork! So c c c controversial.
-worst commenter ever
06:25 AM on 09/04/13
davefalcone777
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Really excited to listen to the album. Should be getting my record in the mail today.
06:37 AM on 09/04/13
joshy hizzle
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I don't know how long it's been since I've posted here but just wanted to say this album is amazing. Justin Vernon is one of my favorite musicians, always pushing the envelope. Excited to see what he comes up with next.
08:47 AM on 09/04/13
talitha, koum
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Album is top notch.

Some of Vernon's most triumphant-sounding work.

Also, still waiting on my vinyl pre-order to arrive.

Has anyone else been having problems with Amazon's "2 day shipping" lately? Especially for vinyl? The last few months, none of the records I've ordered have arrived on time. Delivery used to be so prompt. Often, when I selected 2 day shipping, I would get the package the next day. Now it's lagging, it seems.
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