Result: 2.5 / 5
Nowadays, the TV seems packed with adverts appealing to touchy-feely twenty-to-thirtysomethings, promoting the latest smartphone or finest oak-aged whiskey, replete with young beardy men in open weave knitwear. Volcano Choir’s latest disc seems the perfect soundtrack for such marketing strategies, with their unison vocals and lo-fi instrumentation, all saturated in wistful echoey reverb.
Volcano Choir’s second album clocks in at a merciful 40 minutes, with eight tracks of atmospheric, post-rocking indie-folk lead by Bon Iver frontman, Justin Vernon. There is quite a strong sense of place throughout Repave, with lyrical and instrumental references to the ocean (note the song titles ‘Tiderays’ and ‘Keel’ for instance); very much a concept album. The album cover art shot of a great, rolling indigo sea does evoke the slow power of the product within, but it’s the grey sky above it that also hints at an apparent lack of dynamics and variation.
‘Tiderays’ opens the record gently with some whirling 70s Lesley speaker organ, which introduces some acoustic guitar and trademark vocals. The rather light chorus is unfortunately heralded by plonking piano before a touch of overdriven axe livens things up towards the end. The nautical references commence here with “sand” and “tiderays”. ‘Acetate’ is a harmless, pleasant number while ‘Comrade’ even makes use of a touch of foulmouthed vocoder: “Eye to eye the culprit / Just rid the fucking pulpit”. ‘Byegone’, though, is the standout track, structurally similar to Joy Division’s classic A-side ‘Atmosphere’. Lyrically, the imagery of “northern lodges”, “border road”, and triumphant heralding “set sail!” paint an interesting picture. Vernon’s warm voice even sounds a bit Mark Knopfler in places. And there’s more lyrical imagery in ‘Alaskans’ with its laid back, sunny picked guitar and the slightly eerie ‘Keel’. ‘Almanac’ tops off the LP with a little digital loop work.
Repave’s post-rock soundscapes are pleasant enough, in fact it’s all so relaxing that driving to this CD late at night could prove fatal. But, while it’s well made and sometimes thought provoking, there is lack of variety here. Do I need it in my life? Probably not.
Repave is out on 3 September on Jagjaguwar.