Justin Vernon has biased my opinion of Volcano Choir's first album, Unmap. How couldn't he? Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, brought us one of the most beautiful and hauntingly passionate albums in many years with For Emma, Forever Ago. In Volcano Choir, Vernon teams up with fellow Wisconsinites and math rockers, Collections of Colonies of Bees, to create an album of familiar subtleties and unfamiliar instrumentation. Unmap, their debut album, came out on Jagjaguwar in September.
Though the title Unmap conveys an idea of new paths and deconstructed norms, the album is very accessible and just mildly experimental. Vernon's style of singing is so pervasive that any chance of going musically cosmic is grounded in his vocal consistencies. The second track, "Seeplymouth," is the culmination of the group's young collaboration with nearly seven minutes of thoughtful noise, intermixed with guitar notes, pounding drum, recorded talking and Vernon's slow, minimal yet deliberate singing.
Unmap is a definite thumbs-up, but not quite a five star. It is full of some great singles but lacks a true identity as a complete album. The highlights are the aforementioned "Seeplymouth," as well as "Island, IS" and "And Gather," while many of the other tracks are too loud to be dinner music and too subtle to stand alone. While this may not be the album you would use to showcase your musical tastes, it does have many wonderful headphone moments.