Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Volcano Choir - Unmap

Like most of Justin Vernon’s recordings under the pseudonym Bon Iver, his latest work is best listened to in isolation. Vernon’s musical experimentation with members of Wisconsin’s Collections of Colonies of Bees brings us Unmap, a stark bunch of loopy, synthed out tracks. Like his solo work, the album is a mastery of the heartbreak king’s layered vocals. His warming, heart-wrenching falsetto rings out in harmonic choruses. Unlike Bon Iver, the music follows no pattern or conscious tempo, and guitar is not the instrument of choice. “Island, Is,” the first single, is the most accessible track; looped beats and melodies circle round Vernon’s howls in the coolest oddball tune since Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks.” On the opposite side of the spectrum is “Youlogy,” a freakily beautiful song with a melody similar to “Amazing Grace” and jarring gong hits (take heed when driving – they sound like beeping horns). “Still” is a fleshed out version of Bon Iver’s “Woods” that builds to an immense buzz and gently fizzes out. Unmap puts an eerie, unexpected twist on songs ranging from ambient to acoustic. One experiment not to try: throwing a party to this music. It’s a headphones album.

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