Wednesday, 4 September 2013
Volcano Choir – Repave
This is painstakingly constructed and overproduced indie-folk-rock that deeply, earnestly believes that instrumental detail equals depth, that building something big and expensive-sounding means you've created something significant and valuable.
The first thing that stuck in my craw is that Justin Vernon's vocal shtick – falsetto into reverb – is sounding really tired. On Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago it felt like a ghostly puff of breath in cold air, sad and eerie. His words used to be more direct and resonant, but here they're just abstractions, gestures towards meaning. On The Talkhouse, Mark Eitzel describes this as part of the album's appeal, but I couldn't disagree more. It feels evasive and cowardly. So far I've only managed to pick out one line that resonates. On 'Dancepack', Vernon yowls, "Take note, there's a hole in your heart." Finally, a moment that connects – and it's an acknowledgement of emptiness.
Vernon is credited with just the vocals, while the music is played by the guys from Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, who made a great instrumental rock album called Giving a couple of years ago. Together they attempted something interesting on the first Volcano Choir album Unmap, mustering deconstructed folk music that at least invited repeat listens. However, most of the songs on Repave are so desperately epic that they just grate. Only the droning, open-ended 'Keel' is truly affecting, simply because it doesn't try to be anything more than it is. The ascending guitar lines in 'Byegone' would work just fine if they weren't bolstered at the song's crescendo with the massed cry of "Set sail!" Fuck off! Arcade Fire have the same tendency to overstuff their songs in their quest for grandeur, rendering them irritating and unlikeable.
Ultimately, listening to Repave feels like watching a firework display in lieu of sitting down to a meal, then wondering why you feel so hungry. This music is pretentious, self-serving, boring and empty.