Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Lush post-rock meets indie folk from Volcano Choir

I have another library find for you today. The band is Volcano Choir, and their debut album, “Unmap,” is strange, melodic, ethereal, and fearless. I suppose they remind me most of the experimental, psychedelic pop of Animal Collective. When you get into this territory, comparisons become problematic.

From the bleak, frozen tundra of Wisconsin comes... people who wear curtains.

Volcano Choir is a collaboration between Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (whom I have heard OF, but never actually heard) and the band Collections of Colonies of Bees (whom I have neither heard of nor heard). Bon Iver is an indie folk band who have played Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits. Collections of Colonies of Bees are apparently known for their complex and abstract brand of post-rock. Both bands have roots in Wisconsin and, perhaps not surprisingly, have found each other.

“Unmap” is a release by some truly creative musicians following their muse wherever it leads them. Such purity of intent is risky, particularly if your muse isn’t that great, but it really pays off for these guys who clearly have great pop sensibilities, but no interest in pop music itself. The guitar and keyboard is at times structured and at others aimless and noodling. The percussion flows or marches depending on the needs of the groove.  I think, however, their greatest strength might be their vocal work, which is light, airy, often very odd, and unfailingly beautiful.

At times, “Unmap” wanders so far afield that it loses me. Perhaps with repeated listens I may better understand what they musicians are doing and enjoy some of the odder songs more. These 5 tracks, however, grabbed me the first time through and the more I listen to them the more I like them. Check them out.

  • Husks and Shells – Quietly plucked guitar, sweet harmony vocals, and nowhere to go make this a very pleasant listen. It almost feels like the song doesn’t really start until 45 seconds from its end.
  • Sleepymouth – The rhythmic vamping of the guitar and swelling cymbals make this song feel like it’s just about to get up and run at any second, and it does finally build to a powerful percussive finish, but not in the way you expect.
  • Island, IS – This is perhaps the most accessible song on the disc, being the closest to actual pop music. Having said that, it is still quirky with odd lyrics and an unpredictable melody.
  • And Gather – The handclaps and harmony vocals remind you of a song you’ve heard, but it sounds like it’s being played backwards.
  • Still – This slow, undulating song is as towering, sunny, and beautiful as a cathedral. Just gorgeous.

This album was released just a few months ago, in September of 2009. Hopefully, Vernon and company find this collaboration rewarding and fulfilling and are at work on another album as I type. Musicians who stretch and bend music like this keep me picking up random discs even when 75% of what I find is weak or tired. They also inspire the next generation of musicians to find new ways to create art.


April 19, 2010 - Posted by | Folk, Indie, Post-rock

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