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BON IVER

February in West Texas. The light low and the days still warm and sweet. The air bright with red-tailed hawk and blue bunting, with the shink and rattle of the green jay. On a pecan ranch east of El Paso, its orchards running down to the Mexican border and the waters of the Rio Grande, a thrum of activity - song, saxophone, dancers, drums, guitar, synths; the sound of something taking shape. Here, 1500 miles from Wisconsin, from where this all began, a new season.

When Bon Iver released For Emma, Forever Ago in early 2008 it introduced Justin Vernon as one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation and revealed a sound that was distinct - tethered to time and to place, to a season of contemplation and the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter. Its successor, the self-titled Bon Iver, Bon Iver, brought something more frenetic, the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring, of hope and sap and movement. In 2016's 22, A Million, Vernon came to see something different again: "It was," he says, "our crazy energy Summer record." The band's fourth album, i,i, completes this cycle: a Fall record, Vernon says, autumn-coloured, ruminative, steeped.

"It feels very much like the most adult record, the most complete," says Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. "It feels like when you get through all this life, when the sun starts to set, and what happens is you start gaining perspective. And then you can put that perspective into more honest, generous work."

The core band for the i,i sessions included Sean Carey, Andrew Fitzpatrick, Mike Lewis, Matt McCaughan, and Justin Vernon with Rob Moose and Jenn Wasner, plus contributions from James Blake, BJ Burton, Brad andPhil Cook, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Trever Hagen, Zach Hanson, Bruce Hornsby, Channy Leaneagh, Rob Moose, Naeem, Velvet Negroni, Buddy Ross, Marta Salogni, Francis Starlite, Moses Sumney, and the members of TU Dance.

When sessions for i,i moved from April Base to Sonic Ranch, Bon Iver took full advantage of the facility, sometimes utilizing all five of the studio's live rooms simultaneously. "It allowed us to feel confident and comfortable, to be completely free of distraction," says Vernon of the move. "I don't think I left the property in six weeks. And in many ways the story of the album is the story of those six weeks rather than the almost six years of some of the songs."

The tenure at Sonic Ranch brought Vernon to a calmed creative state that he channeled into the heart of each song. Freed from the vocal distortion that once mirrored a period of fear and panic, he sings about the balance between the individual and the community, inspiration and creation. Vernon adds, "The title of the record can mean whatever it means to you or me. It can mean deciphering and bolstering one's identity. It can be how important the self is and how unimportant the self is, how we're all connected."

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: Is there no end to JV's talents? He was the poster boy for brittle, morose hilltop acoutictronica for a good few years, and has seamlessly morphed into a modern take on the progressive chord structures and vocal layering of 70's rock or the percussive immediacy of 80's synthpop.

FORMAT INFORMATION

LP Info: A beautiful package, the black vinyl is housed inside a matte finished gatefold jacket with spot gloss inks, wrapped in a clear plastic printed sleeve, and contains a full-colour 28 page booklet.

LP includes MP3 Download Code.

22, A Million is part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self- understanding like a religion. And the inner-resolution of maybe never finding that understanding. The album’s 10 poly-fi recordings are a collection of sacred moments, love’s torment and salvation, contexts of intense memories, signs that you can pin meaning onto or disregard as coincidence. If Bon Iver, Bon Iver built a habitat rooted in physical spaces, then 22, A Million is the letting go of that attachment to a place.

STAFF COMMENTS

Millie says: Bon Iver takes a new approach for his latest album, taking influences from heavy electronic sounds and a long list of collaborators. Stylistically different, it's best to have no preconceptions and listen with fresh ears as it's a marvel of an album with a diverse sound. Just brilliant!

FORMAT INFORMATION

2xIndies Exclusive LP Info: Ultra limited 12" and single LP bundle. Shrinkwrapped together, 12” is random colour, LP is black. Gatefold sleeve, comes with download card.

LP Info: Single Black Vinyl LP, Gatefold sleeve, comes with download card.

When Justin Vernon emerged from the wilds of Wisconsin in 2008 with his Bon Iver project, and the startling debut album 'For Emma, Forever Ago', perhaps none of us quite realised the magnitude of this unique talent. Not only did he capture hearts across the globe, but 'For Emma' also attained beyond gold sales in the UK, and the follow up EP ‘Blood Bank’ debuted at #14 on the Billboard Top 200 and the Top 40 UK in 2009. In the intervening months and years, Vernon has collaborated non-stop on entirely new projects in varying genres with Gayngs’ sassy innovation on the Relayted album, and Volcano Choir, a freeform adventure with fellow Wisconsin musicians Collections of Colonies of Bees on the album Unmap. He also duetted with St Vincent, appearing on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, while Peter Gabriel recorded a cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Flume’ and Bon Iver reciprocated with ‘Come Talk To Me’ for a Record Store Day limited edition 7” release.

And then there was the time when Kanye West called up and invited Vernon to pop down to his studio in Hawaii to collaborate on the hip hop auteur’s astoundingly bold opus, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'. West sampled ‘Woods’ (taken from ‘Blood Bank’) on the track ‘Lost in the World’. Vernon also appeared – alongside Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj – on ‘Monster’, which proved to be one of the tracks of last year. He also appeared on four other tracks and has since performed live with Kanye on numerous occasions, including the 2011 Coachella Festival.

When it came to recording the follow up to 'For Emma', Justin Vernon headed to his hometown of Eau Claire. Bon Iver was recorded and mixed at April Base Studios, a remodeled veterinarian’s clinic located in rural Fall Creek, Wisconsin. The main recording space is constructed over a defunct indoor pool attached to the clinic.

“It’s an unique space and destination; it’s our home out here,” says Vernon, who purchased the structure with his brother in late 2008 with the sole intention of converting it into his ideal recording studio. “It’s been a wonderful freedom, working in a place we built. It’s also three miles from the house I grew up in, and just ten minutes from the bar where my parents met.”

The creation of 'Bon Iver, Bon Iver' was not solely down to Vernon. On the track ‘Beth/Rest’ and throughout the album, we hear the pedal steel of Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Bill Frisell), the uniquely layered low end of Colin Stetson's (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire) saxophones, the riffing of Mike Lewis' (Happy Apple, Andrew Bird) altos and tenors, and the lush horns of C.J. Camerieri (Rufus Wainwright, Sufjan Stevens). Bon Iver regulars Sean Carey, Mike Noyce and Matt McCaughan contributed vocals, drums and production, Rob Moose (Antony and the Johnsons, The National) helped with arranging and added strings, and fellow members of Volcano Choir, Jim Schoenecker and Tom Wincek provided processing.

It’s all there right away, in the thicker-stringed guitar and military snare of ‘Perth’, and ‘Minnesota, WI.’ Anyone who had a single listen to 'For Emma' will peg Justin Vernon’s vocals immediately, but there is a sturdiness – an insistence – to Bon Iver that allows him to escape the cabin in the woods without burning it to the ground. ‘Holocene’ opens with simple finger-picking. The vocal is regret spun hollow and strung on a wire. Then the snare-beat breaks and drives us forward and up and up….The magical poise and restraint of ‘Michicant’. The vocals in ‘Hinnom, TX’ ease to the muffled depths, while the instrumentation remains sparse and cosmic.

From the tenderised piano and sprouting strings of arguable album highlight ‘Wash’, we arrive at future single ‘Calgary’ – a worship song to everything 'For Emma' mourned. At the point in the final track ‘Beth/Rest’ when Vernon sings, “I ain’t livin’ in the dark no more” it is clear he isn’t dancing in the sunshine, but rather shading toward a new light. It also provides the most ‘Woods’-like moment on the album in terms of singular voice and production.

'Bon Iver, Bon Iver' is Justin Vernon returning to former haunts with a new spirit. The reprises are there – solitude, quietude and hope – but always a rhythm arises, a pulse vivified by gratitude and grace notes, some as bright as a bicycle bell. The winter, the myth, has faded to just that, and this is the new momentary present. From ‘Perth’ to ‘Beth’ we go full circle and reach the summation to a remarkable second album.


Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago

    THE PICCADILLY RECORDS ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2008

    I'm sure you all know the story of his album? So romantic, almost too perfect to be real: Justin Vernon (who?), a break-up, and a remote cabin. Four months isolation with only a guitar and a portastudio for company? Well, it's like a melancholy fairytale, because out of this has arrived one of the most honest and heartfelt records you're ever likely to hear. "For Emma" has received rave reviews but this shouldn't be confused with tiresome, music-biz hype. For one thing, the accolades all came after the record, and anyway, when you hear this album you'll just know that all the praise is deserved. Justin looks like he should be out chopping trees, sinking beers and hunting deer in the backwoods, yet he opens his mouth and an angel flies out! With a falsetto (a little reminiscent of the TV On The Radio guy) that soars on top of a super-ambient acoustic guitar base (Iron And Wine?) these songs evoke a bleak but beautiful sense of isolation that's hard to separate from the story behind them or the place in which they were recorded. Strings hum and twang, songs collapse and build again, there's footsteps on a wooden floor, multi-tracked harmonies, sparse electric guitar. Whilst far from groundbreaking ("For Emma" is refreshingly not part of any 'scene' and clearly the bloke has nothing to do with 'fashion') this is a unique and original record. A record, quite literally, out of nowhere. And if you're a fan of sad, thoughtful, melodic and atmospheric music, then you really are going to be blown away by this.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Darryl says: Another Piccadilly Records album of the year, I'm sure sure you all know the back story to this?? To recap, Justin Vernon spends four months in a remote cabin recording a break-up album, and the results are staggering! Beautiful melancholy for the bleak mid-winter.


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