Volcano Choir, Repave

Brian Howe

By Brian Howe

on 09.03.13 in Reviews

After just a few years in the national spotlight, the mercurial Justin Vernon has already tried his luck as an angelic folkie and experimental pop star (Bon Iver), a blues-rock belter (The Shouting Matches), a stony jammer (Gayngs), and a rap-hook warbler with Kanye West. He added post-rock singer to his resume in 2009 with the band Volcano Choir, a collaboration with the indie band Collections of Colonies of Bees. Their first album, Unmap, was as tantalizing and directionless as its title, but on its follow-up, those studio-massacred abstractions coalesce into something closer to Bon Iver.

Pastoral and explosive, cosmic and martial

The music, alternately pastoral and explosive, cosmic and martial, shapes itself into sturdy structures from delicately trembling parts. Hints of digital manipulation stand out with detailed clarity. After a Straussian overture, “Tiderays” embarks on a winding guitar odyssey in the manner of Broken Social Scene, while “Acetate” and other tracks recall the majestic gloom of Grizzly Bear. Usually singing in his underutilized natural voice, which is low and gruff and sounds, especially on “Dancepack,” like Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner, Vernon sparingly breaks into the vaporous falsetto on which he made his name — it first appears on “Comrade,” a blossoming march that rises to Arcade Fire-levels of ragged grandeur. Unlike Unmap, the excellent Repave gives these adept musicians something solid to stand on.