I wanted to save this as an end of the week treat. And since I have had almost five days with the entire album, I thought it was time to share.
I really didn’t need further proof that Justin Vernon was a gifted musician. As Bon Iver, his release For Emma, Forever Ago consumed my iPod last year. In late January of this year, as if he knew I was going through withdrawals, he gifted us all with the EP Blood Bank. Then Dark Was the Night gave us not one, but two amazing Vernon songs: “‘Brackett, WI” (as Bon Iver) and “Big Red Machine” (as Justin Vernon with Aaron Dessner).
This week Vernon, with his latest side project Volcano Choir, has once again quenched my thirst for his haunting and melancholy music with the LP Unmap. This album is much like a dream in that the overall feeling is familiar but everything is somehow still very strange and surreal. Vernon’s falsetto voice echoes throughout the album, but unlike the acoustic quiet of For Emma, Unmap finds him experimenting with new and often unusual sounds. This musical discord (and I say that in the most loving way possible) appears to be a result of Vernon’s collaboration with Collections of Colonies of Bees for this album.
The album is heavy on sound and light on lyrics, but the sounds are interesting enough to keep me wanting longer cuts of each track. Both “Island, IS” and “Cool Knowledge” are much more intricate in their sounds than the bare sounds of his previous releases. And while this album has Justin Vernon written all over it, it is a completely different musical direction for him. It’s refreshing to see him be so experimental with his music. The results are truly stunning.