Plumbiferous Media

Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Jul 3rd 2011
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Bon Iver - Bon IverBon Iver
Bon Iver
Score: 93

As Bon Iver opens, Justin Vernon’s oth­er­world­ly tones ring out into a cau­tious but rich­ly melod­ic flow, prompt­ly accom­pa­nied by the thud­ding march of “Perth“‘s base­line. This is the sort of intro­duc­tion that demon­strates Bon Iver’s sound per­fect­ly, in all of its grooves and facets, each nuance illu­mi­nat­ed for just long enough to allow the lis­ten­er to rev­el in its insight. “Min­neso­ta, WI” fol­lows, care­ful­ly out­lined by Col­in Stetson’s sax­o­phone. As Ver­non sings “Set­tle past a patience where wish­es and your will are spilling pic­tures / Water’s run­ning through in the val­ley where we grew to write this scrip­ture,” it’s impos­si­ble not to see those very pic­tures in the lay­ers of music that greet each moment.

Bon Iver isn’t always focused on the nuance - it’s just as capa­ble of soar­ing through a musi­cal land­scape, with tracks like “Tow­ers” and “Cal­gary”. The for­mer car­ries Vernon’s voice through a hope­ful, rem­i­nis­cent, and thor­oug­ly obscured tale, pushed for­ward by the deter­mi­na­tion of “Fuck the fiercest fables, I’m with Hagen” and slowed by the painful pas­sion of “Well, you’re stand­ing on my ster­num / Don’t you climb down, dar­ling.” The lat­ter is a deeply metaphor­ic affair - as Ver­non tells it, a tale of a life­time of love that opens with with the cau­tion­ary “Don’t you cher­ish me to sleep” and clos­es with the con­tent “Oh the demons come, they can sub­side.” The two are entire­ly dif­fer­ent, and yet Ver­non and Bon Iver man­age to make them son­i­cal­ly elo­quent in much the same way - with­out the trap of rep­e­ti­tion that a less cre­ative group might have fall­en into.

Bon Iver takes such a range of musi­cal approach­es that it might be sur­pris­ing that it comes togeth­er well, but it does with very few excep­tions. There are scat­tered miss­es - a sec­ond here or there that doesn’t mesh with its sur­round­ings as well as one might hope, a line that comes off as con­fus­ing rather than the intend­ed cryp­tic - but they’re few and far between com­pared to what Bon Iver does right. Each moment is care­ful­ly con­struct­ed to sup­port the next and the last, each as enthralling as the last. Bon Iver exper­i­ments with­out los­ing its sound, moves flu­id­ly with­out slip­ping into a stream of musi­cal con­scious­ness, and express­es emo­tion­al breadth in an immense range per­fect­ly suit­ed for the group’s musi­cal range. The group draws from jazz, from rock, and from folk to cre­ate a sound that is all its own - but in which well-placed influ­ence and well-learned lessons are clear. Bon Iver cer­tain­ly isn’t 2008’s For Emma, For­ev­er Ago - and, while that album was excel­lent, that’s a good thing. Instead, it’s some­thing com­plete­ly new - and some­thing excit­ing.

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