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Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP

"Blood Bank EP"

Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP
23 January 2009, 13:00 Written by Emily Moore
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On Sunday night, from under a giant, Iron Maiden-worthy papier-mâché dragon, Bon Iver bid an emotional end-of-year farewell to London. (They were playing the Apollo Victoria, where there is a nightly run of Wicked, and there were unsettling, vaguely apocalyptic props clustered around the stage.) On sale at the show was their new four-track EP, Blood Bank. It is pressed on satisfyingly weighty vinyl, stickered with what looks like a picture of fluffy nimbus clouds and packaged, complete with lyrics sheet, in a beautifully designed sleeve that seems to say, quietly, because Justin Vernon is a quiet guy, “Buy me; please don’t leak me”. The title track, already a live favourite, is far more restrained on record but will no doubt slip easily into the Bon Iver canon as a quietly smouldering classic. It’s all slow-building, pounding beats with a forceful, near a capella middle section. But the contrast between the intro and quiet vocal section, which is so striking live, slips into the recorded version far less dramatically. The finale is full of strident layered vocals and distorted guitars. Beautiful as it is, for those who already file Vernon alongside Chris Martin, there is little in this song to persuade them otherwise.“Beach Baby” is a quiet, calm interlude, a bit like “Skinny Love” minus the most urgent, heart-wrenching depths. A low acoustic strum provides a foundation for Vernon’s stripped-down voice, before a drowsy, almost tropical steel guitar line slides in for an extended closer. It is a delicate song, over almost as quickly as it begins.“Babys” fades in on brittle but not unjoyful eighth notes that sound as though they are being pounded out of the higher registers of a charmingly cheap piano. When the vocals eventually appear, Vernon sings, enthusiastically, about “multiplying” ”“ the deliberately misspelt title is clearly a plural rather than a possessive. Behind an intermittent chorus of layered voices, the pounded eighths fade in and out, drifting between rhythmn and polyrhythm, harmony and dissonance, then die away in a confused crush of keys. However awkward this description sounds, it may be the most straightforwardly upbeat Bon Iver tune to date.“Woods” may have started out as a one-liner ”“ Justin ripping it on Auto-Tune ”“ but it is worth the price of the entire record and then some. It sounds like what might have resulted if Aretha and Prince had been locked into a small room together in 1987 ”“ one vocal thread yelps an extended, falsetto gospel solo to the heavens whilst the second, which is itself duplicated and layered throughout the lower registers, is all cool control, cybersex and Camille. It is brave, too, mutilating that sacred voice ”“ practically Bon Iver’s entire raison d’être ”“ and coming up with something that is still overwhelming and profoundly human. 82%mp3:> Bon Iver: 'Blood Bank'Bon Iver on Myspace
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