Volcano Choir: Repave

Volcano Choir’s sophomore record, Repave, was released by Jagjaguwar on September 3rd. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver returns as lead vocalist.

I was disappointed by the band’s 2009 debut, Unmap, which felt more like a Bon Iver side project, made of fragments and sketches that promised greatness—and had some great moments—but rarely delivered the kind of focused and resolved songs that I had hope for. I liked Unmap, but I wanted to love it—and I didn’t.

Repave, though, is something different. If Unmap was the sound of a band finding its way, Repave is a band that has arrived, fully formed and full of joy. There’s an interesting story behind the making of Repave, which you can hear in this ten-minute documentary.

Basically, Unmap had been pieced together through the long-distance exchange of digital files and e-mails. When the band finally decided to perform live, they discovered that they didn’t actually know how to play the songs. Concentrated rehearsals were followed by a tour through Japan, during which the band came together—sonically, for sure, but also, I suspect, personally and spiritually. Making music with others is like making anything else—it requires focus, dedication, and work—but magic is also involved, and that magic is largely conjured by time simply spent together, playing.

Says Vernon, “There’s something about hanging out this much and becoming friends for this long, having a basis for exploration and finding out new zones to be in musically together—it’s all part of this new music.”

I feel a special kind of joy in watching footage of bands in studios, creating. From my own experiences in bands, I have an idea of the satisfaction and excitement involved in the songwriting and recording process. How great it must be to wake up each day, go to the studio, and work on songs! Repave was recorded at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studios in Fall Creek, WI. (You can learn more about April Base in this article from The Cap Times.)

“Seeing us grow as a band and changing our process and spending more time here, together, in one spot, has totally informed us,” Vernon continues. “This place is kind of a metaphor of what is possible, and how to get better, how to write better songs, how to grow, how to extend. Repave.”

You can hear the energy of the time and place in the recording. I haven’t yet listened through the hi-fi, but I get the feeling that the experience will be excellent. Repave does not exude the lonely, broken beauty of Bon Iver’s remarkable debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. It does not feel like the work of acquaintances searching for common ground, trying to build friendships. It’s free from all of that. Instead, Repave sounds like confidence, victory, strength, and togetherness.

In the video for the album’s lead single, “Byegone,” darkness is broken and life revealed through the sound of the band’s music.

The video was directed by Michinori Saigo, with photography direction by Toshihiko Kizu. Repave is available now, online and in stores.

baumer's picture

Really enjoying this one, Steve. Thanks for the heads up.

A question for you: do you know of a list or resource that tracks which labels include high quality downloads with vinyl? In an ideal world, we would be able to buy everything on vinyl with a lossless download or included CD.  

Stephen Mejias's picture

Glad you're enjoying it, baumer.

I agree that it would be great if every vinyl purchase came with a lossless download or CD version. I think labels are moving in that direction, but, as far as I know, there's currently no set standard.

Michael Lavorgna has made lists of CD-quality download sites and hi-rez download sites. Maybe I can start asking labels about how they determine whether to include a download or CD with their LPs, and begin pushing them to all provide at least CD-quality downloads.