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Bon Iver - i,i (Album Review)

Thursday, 15 August 2019 Written by Helen Payne

If Bon Iver’s 2007 debut ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ was the soundtrack to closing yourself off in a small wood cabin in rural Wisconsin, then ‘i,i’ takes us into the countryside that surrounds it, an expanse of space with edges that lie far beyond the visible horizon. Be that as it may, is this record is as deep as it is wide?

Like all Bon Iver albums, and indeed most of front man Justin Vernon’s side projects, ‘i,i’ encompasses various elements of and similarities to his earlier work, but also pushes the boundaries of what a Bon Iver means—if it can mean anything.

Channeling a similar approach to 2016’s ‘22, A Million’, the Eau Claire group turn to sonic manipulation, along with help from James Blake, Moses Sumney, the National’s Dessner twins, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and more, to create a mosaic of sounds and textures. 

Still, there’s less studio trickery here than on its predecessor. A preference for organic instrumentation over computers and auto-tune is evident, with low point Jelmore coming over like a short question mark made up of hesitant synths—it feels more like a quick sketch than a finished cut. 

iMi presents this stunning mosaic best, and it’s a track made up of numerous layers: the mix contains a delicate flare of soft synths, the cut and paste vocal jigsaw of James Blake, a ‘For Emma...’-inspired harmonised verse from Vernon, steel stringed guitars and a heartfelt earworm of a refrain. Each element takes a turn in the foreground to curate an irresistible range of dynamics.

The delightful lead single Hey, Ma is constructed with touching synth pads and a poignant melody that sticks with you long after you’ve removed your headphones. Both the gospel-hued U (Man Like) and anthemic lyrics of Naeem are a hair’s breadth away from being instant classics, and Faith grips a listener by posing those big philosophical questions: “Do we get to hold what faith provides?”

‘i,i’ is also home to a few dips. Both the lyrical focus of Holyfields and the intriguing, noodling bassline of We could have been the start of something great, but they need a little more fleshing out. The sparseness of Marion, meanwhile, could have been rewarded with another vocal take. 

While pushing boundaries can flex experimental muscles to their limits and produce something monumental and iconic, on ‘i,i’ it leaves the listener craving more tangible parts to hold on to a little too often to be called a masterpiece.

Bon Iver Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat August 31 2019 - BONNER Montana - KettleHouse Amphitheater (USA)
Mon September 02 2019 - VAIL Colorado - Gerald Ford Amphitheatre (USA)
Tue September 03 2019 - MORRISON Colorado - Red Rocks (USA)
Wed September 04 2019 - SALT LAKE CITY Utah - Maverik Center (USA)
Fri September 06 2019 - GEORGE Washington - Gorge Amphitheatre (USA)
Sat September 07 2019 - VANCOUVER BC - Pacific Coliseum (Canada)
Tue September 10 2019 - PORTLAND Oregon - Theater Of The Clouds (USA)
Thu September 12 2019 - SAN FRANCISCO California - Chase Center (USA)
Sun September 15 2019 - LOS ANGELES California - Forum (USA)
Thu October 03 2019 - SAINT PAUL Minnesota - Xcel Energy Center (USA)
Fri October 04 2019 - ROSEMONT Illinois - Allstate Arena (USA)
Sun October 06 2019 - TORONTO Ontario - Scotiabank Arena (Canada)
Tue October 08 2019 - COLUMBUS Ohio - Schottenstein Center (USA)
Thu October 10 2019 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Wells Fargo Center (USA)
Fri October 11 2019 - BROOKLYN New York - Bearclays Centre (USA)
Tue October 15 2019 - BOSTON Massachusetts - TD Garden (USA)
Thu October 17 2019 - WASHINGTON District of Columbia - Anthem (USA)
Fri October 18 2019 - WASHINGTON District of Columbia - Anthem - DC (USA)
Sat October 19 2019 - RALEIGH North Carolina - PNC Arena (USA)
Wed December 04 2019 - BROOKLYN New York - Kings Theatre (USA)
Thu December 05 2019 - BROOKLYN New York - Kings Theatre (USA)

Click here to compare & buy Bon Iver Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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