Surely no one was expecting this. By now Bon Iver (just Justin Vernon to his mum) was supposed to be busy writing a debut full-length, an album to capitalize on the success of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. If not that then at least crumbling under the pressure of following up one of the most warmly (if not quite widely) received records of recent times. He’s certainly not supposed to be releasing an experimental electronic side-project with some friends from back home. But thank god Vernon doesn’t care much for how things are supposed to go, because this is beautiful.
'Husks And Shells’ starts simply enough, with a slight, sombre acoustic guitar strum, but it soon stutters and loops and layers alongside vocal swells, picked strings and an insistent soft beep, finishing not a billion miles from where it started but surprising all the same. ‘Seeplymouth’ too revels in the unexpected, a six-minute cut-and-paste experiment of drum loops, soft drones and Vernon’s pitched and altered clicks and harmonies, ‘Cool Knowledge’ is a collage of humming and sparse but dancey beats, and ‘Youlogy’ is like the soundtrack to some great adventure going horribly wrong.
‘Still’ sounds warm and familiar as it cribs lyrics from Bon Iver’s ‘Woods’ and ‘Island, IS’ is about as close as this choir get to a conventional song but the best, most beautiful bits here are the odd, hypnotic and alien moments. And while none of these are breakneck twists and turns, they’re more than enough to have your head reeling and your ears finely pricked for whatever else might come next. Totally unexpected but utterly exceptional.
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