Justin Vernon’s Volcano Choir – Unmap [Album Review]

by That Guy on December 1, 2009

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has been tinkering around over the last couple years with his side project, Volcano Choir, and finally released the album a couple months ago. The album, entitled Unmap, is the work of Vernon and fellow Wisconsin band Collections of Colonies of Bees and was released on Jagjaguwar.

It’s definitely a tangential departure from Vernon’s other work. The first released track is “Island, IS”, a beautiful track that I absolutely adore, and after listening to it I was really excited to get into the rest of the album. “Island, IS”‚ almost has a jittery feel to it, like Bon Iver on Red Bull & Vodka. The rest of the album sounds a little more like Bon Iver on PCP. It’s the type of music you’d love to have as background music while watching something about nature on the Discovery channel, but by itself it’s rather difficult to wrap your arms around.

Unmap is just a little too experimental and quirky for me¦pretty heavy doses of static, feedback, ambient sounds, plucking strings, and very few lyrics. If you’re into that sort of thing or are a big fan of Justin Vernon, you’ll probably like it. In fact, I read some user reviews on iTunes and for the most part they’re extremely glowing. I’ll agree that there are some good moments on the album – “Still” is an interesting take on “Woods” off of Bon Iver’s Blood Bank EP, and the quick-hitting “Cool Knowledge” sounds like a cross between something off of Paul Simon’s Graceland and The Roots Phrenology. But to me, Unmap sounds a little too much like an art project and just isn’t my cup of chowder.

Volcano Choir – Island, IS

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody December 1, 2009 at 8:19 am

I have never been as mystified by Bon Iver as others but I always respected him as a talented musician so I was excited to hear him a different setting. You did a nice review here and called it like it is. There are some amazing parts surrounded by nice background music.

Daniel Louis Tachon December 12, 2009 at 1:16 pm

This album is one of my favorites of the year. Each track is unique unto itself, and is layered with different vocal and musical nuances that makes the album as a whole incredibly original. It is definitely a departure from Justin Vernon’s previous work on Bon Iver, but still, a very enjoyable album by an extremely talented group of lads.

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