Volcano Choir

Lisa Dreher, Culture Editor

Before and during the hysteria over airy, folk band Bon Iver, front man Justin Vernon divided his time between his first band, DeYarmond Edison (2002-2006), and Volcano Choir (2005-present), when not admiring his Grammy for Best New Artist over a crackling fireplace in his Wisconsin home in Eau Claire.

After DeYarmond Edison broke up and Vernon claimed to take a break from Bon Iver, he focused his attention on his second project.

Compiled over a pile of mixed sounds and ideas, Volcano Choir’s debut album, “Unmap”, was stretched across a network of emails, and hastily conjoined in physical form in Japan in 2010, where they decided to tour.

After three vigorous years of bonding over refreshing ideas in each other’s presence amidst Japan’s lively culture, Volcano Choir meshed together its multiple elements of gritty and gracefulness to create their second album, “Repave”.

Each song builds up into anthem momentum, climbing a crescendo of creeping electric guitars and booming, compelling drums by Jon Mueller.

The lyrical composition is rather off putting, despite the quintessential, power driven songs. The lyrics draw away from what Bon Iver fans have always demanded and mulled over; not by becoming blatant but so self-consciously obscure and impenetrable.

“Tiderays” is a track pulled as a sample that encompasses the whole; a statement of what is to be anticipated. Carrying an elegance like that of Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank”, Vernon’s croon glides across a swaying, four beat pattern. The transition of emotion raises the platform to a rapid snare pattern like that of “Perth”.

The next track, “Acetate”, does not aim to be pleasantly aesthetic – like the opening acoustic guitar seems to do – but forceful and energetic. Volcano Choir is just really having fun with their creative, compulsive drums and vocal backups. It’s not just Vernon as the voice and face to another album, and that’s where Volcano Choir succeeds.

“Comrade” opens with what sounds like computer beeps, reminiscent of “Lisbon, OH”, but feels more relatable. Decisive guitar and piano tones weave in and out throughout the verses of this crystal cut ballad. Vernon’s falsetto  is used as an instrument instead of simply a voice of poetry, as it propels the chorus into dynamic reverb and thundering drums.

“Byegone” captures the esscense of limitless space and will. Drawn out drums suspend and drop with such a punch after each time the orchestral arrangement of outstanding strings escalates. The chorus itself is beyond stunning in its eloquent strength and size.

In “Almanac”, Vernon changes to a low-pitch with an icy undertone. The vibrating electic guitars pierce a point into the atmostphere and extend into eternity. Vernon’s voice never breaks completely from its typical high pitch, as the song enters another phase, an environmnent of 80’s pop melodies and a jagged, gritty electronic pulse. Abrubtly, it transcends into a beautiful rock anthem with crashing symbals, delicate piano plinks and 80s inspired slide guitars.

Volcano Choir deserves a different kind of gratification than that of Justin Vernon’s previous albums, because it possesses a different angle and outlook. It delivers through its vast landscape and grandiose sound an attainable message. It is that there are incredible things we are capable of through creativity and devotion, especially with those who share that, just like the members of Volcano Choir.