Volcano Choir – Unmap

volcano_choir_unmap

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Speaking of collaborations, Wisconsin’s Volcano Choir brings together Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Collection of Colonies of Bees (which features former members of the mighty Pele).

The nine tracks that make up their JagJaguwar debut, Unmap have more in common with ambient music than either of Volcano Choir other parts.  Using tape loops and minimal vocals, and restrained traditional instruments Unmap plays more like a score to a film than a traditional indie rock release.  That’s not to say that it’s not good, because it is.

What is so bold about this mostly quiet record is the lack of traditional vocals.  You would think having the current indie golden boy, Justin Vernon, in the band you would feature him prominently in as many tracks as possible, Volcano Choir do quite the opposite with only two of the nine songs having traditional vocal arrangements (Island, IS and Still).  It’s no surprise that these tracks are the glue that holds this whole release together.  You’ve previously been introduced to Island, IS, but you might surprised how familiar with Still you might be.  You probably remember it as the autotune (take it easy, Jigga!) vocal track, Woods, at the end of Bon Iver’s Blood Bank EP, but here it backed up with a full band.  I must admit, I like this version better.

The rest of the songs rely on the human voice as an instrument, an additional layer to the already lush soundscape.  Many bands have attempted such things before and it has always come off as pretentious and over produced, luckily that is not the case on Unmap.  The songs on Unmap come across as an organic progression of a group of individuals who have a true passion for the music they are producing.

For some this record will be hard to get into, but if you just give it some time you will be greatly rewarded.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/03-island-is-1.mp3]

Download: Volcano Choir – Island IS [MP3]

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