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ARTICLE: The many voices of Justin Vernon

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It comes as a shock to think that Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago was released only six years ago. The album that launched Justin Vernon into a muddled collective unconscious was notably bare and intimate, wintry landscape, inspired by the solitary Wisconsin cabin in which it was conceived. It could have been a rugged example of American frontierism, but instead “Skinny Love” became stock music for TV teenage angst. A lesser man would have left it at that or cashed in quick.

Instead, buoyed by a series of apparently unlikely collaborations with Kanye West, Vernon released a Bon Iver album that utterly did away with the lo-fi insularity of its predecessor. Bon Iver, featured a much higher level of production, instrumentation and arrangements, and songs like “Hinnom, TX” seem to indicate that West ended up having some influence upon Vernon’s sound, however indirectly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilgdqrqWWB8

Listening to Bon Iver in chronological order, it becomes apparent that Vernon’s recent choice to tank the project is completely logical, with “Flume” and “Beth / Rest” as bookends. “Beth / Rest” always stuck out from the sophomore album as an oddly cheesy track, with Chariots of Fire-style synths and 80s saxophone. It is an experiment in tone that we have to respect, a divisive track that harkens back to Leonard Cohen’s 80s albums, the way the soul of a song permeates through the kitsch instrumentation.

Vernon is most often associated either with the “Skinny Love” sound or that of his Kanye collaborations, yet a quick look at his back catalogue is proof not only of the breadth of genres and sounds he has explored over his career, but also the number of people he has worked with. Not quite the solitary man in a cabin we once imagined.

Pre-Bon Iver, Justin was part of DeYarmond Edison, which, after his departure, became Megafaun. It’s always interesting hearing him harmonise with other people (as opposed to himself, as in “Woods”), and one of the best examples is in the Crosby, Stills and Nashe inspired tracks of DeYarmond Edison.

On the other end of the spectrum, we find him wearing Blues Brothers glasses, playing blues-rock and singing in a manner unlike anything we’ve heard him sing before with his other-other band The Shouting Matches. It is a timely reminder that there is definitely a light sight to Vernon, and that he has always operated on the margins of what can loosely be defined “Americana”, though the term does him a disservice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBnpCR2Hm_E

Though there is likely to be no end to Vernon’s appearances on the most disparate albums imaginable, it is perhaps Volcano Choir that promises to be the successor to Bon Iver, since Volcano Choir’s new album also shows signs of a departure in sound, echoing those from Vernon’s previous band. Unmap had a certain wintry feel, but also featured higher production than the debut Bon Iver album, as well as relying much more heavily on cyclic guitar riffs and harmonized vocals. Some of the folk elements of the debut have been eliminated from the follow-up, Repave, and replaced with a more traditional rock instrumentation and touches of the anthemic.

It is tempting to draw up a timeline for Vernon’s career, tracing some kind of linear musical evolution. But what the selection presented here proves is that these different sounds, groups and voices have largely coexisted side by side. Whether he is playing on a Blind Boys of Alabama record or singing backing vocals for Kathleen Edwards or Megafaun, the evidence is that, Bon Iver or no Bon Iver, Justin Vernon will be around for quite some time.

LIVE REVIEW: Haven Festival, 11-12.08.17

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Iggy Pop live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

With the disappearance of Trailer Park and Vanguard, Copenhagen has been missing a localised music festival that caters to more than just electronic music. On the face of it, this year’s Haven Festival is here to fill that void. Located in the post-industrial landscape of Refshaleøen on the outer edges of Copenhagen harbour, the festival is spread over a field (or Meadow, as they would have it) and former docks. The fetishised grittiness of the crumbling warehouses is juxtaposed by the view across the water, of the cruise ships at Langelinie, the Little Mermaid, and the custard-coloured Royal Yacht moored nearby.

The food and drink has been as much a part of the conversation in anticipation of the festival as the music, if not more so. Provided by mostly by Mikkeller and Meyers bakery, you can get all the microbrewed beer and organic barbecue you want, provided you are willing to cough up, queue for an hour and get lectured on the evils of supermarket bacon by a man in a leather apron. With a lineup including The National, Bon Iver, Feist and Iggy Pop, Haven is very consciously catering to an older, more moneyed crowd than most other Danish festivals.

Feist live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

With a unique and visually interesting setting, some of the most talked-about food in town and some big names, the worst you would expect to say about Haven is that it is expensive and a little on the dull, safe side. Unfortunately it ended up being a victim both of the weather and its own success. Funnelling crowds through a single bridge that connects the main field with the food court is hardly great crowd management, and failing to provide any shelter from the rain on Sunday hardly helped matters. This will get chalked down to inexperience, and is unlikely to do much to damage their ticket sales next year.

Friday’s lineup starts on a relatively mellow note, with folk-tinged indie from Conor Oberst and Lisa Hannigan, but in fairness all pales when compared to the main course of the entire festival, our main reason for being here at all: Iggy Pop. I have genuinely never witnessed a human being spread quite as much joy to a crowd as Professor Ignatius Pop himself, who very literally runs on stage, does a few odd pirouettes and hollers as mangled series of “fuckfuckffuckmotherfuckeerrrr” before launching into I Wanna Be Your Dog. It’s a ballsy move to have the Passenger within the first four songs of your set, but then again it’s ballsy to have not worn a shirt in about half a century. Everyone around me is sporting a perma-grin for the entire set.

Perfume Genius live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

The next day feels like a comedown from Iggy, and is certainly not improved by the rain that peppers Feist (light drizzle), Perfume Genius (moderate), and Liss (absolute fucking downpour). Feist makes the most effort to repel the weather, sometimes by claiming to see sun (sheer optimism) but mostly via her infectious good nature. Changing lyrics to celebrate three girls in the front row who are singing along to every line, or to recommend that people don’t take her words too literally (at the line “I would leave any party for you”), she almost succeeds in making us forget the rain. Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius has increased both his profile and the size of his backing band since we last saw him at Roskilde Festival, and Liss are sounding smoother than ever.

Sets at the two main stages are staggered in such a way that every hour and a half the entire festival decamps across the bridge in one direction or the other, and our only change to eat is by missing Bon Iver entirely. The shiitake okonomiyaki is worth that omission. Unsurprisingly, the National’s closing set is all bells and whistles and guest appearances. The band’s musical core, brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, are the cofounders of the festival alongside Claus Meyer and Mikkel Borg Bergsø, so naturally theirs is meant to be the crowning set of the festival. Joined on stage by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, This is the Kit and Kwami Liv on “I Need My Girl”, the National manage to sum up the day with the blessed absence of rain.

The National live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

Photos by Amanda Farah

DFI Musikfilm Festival 2016: Our Picks

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Copenhagen’s Cinemateket is back with another edition of Musikfilm Festival, a film festival dedicated to music documentaries, rockumenatries, gigumentaries and more neologisms we can’t be bothered to come up with right now. It’s a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes of the music world, as well as a celluloid window into some of the most mythical concerts of the last half century. Behold, our picks for the coming week:

Daft Punk Unchained (Saturday, 16:30)

The festival opens with the (free!) showing of Daft Punk’s odyssey from the brash kings of ‘French touch’ to the robot-headed, disco overlords of today. Expect lots of teasing about “the men behind the masks”, hordes of celebrities quite rightly, if self-servingly, gushing over them, and the burgeoning realization that Homework is still the best thing they ever did. CC.

Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle (Sunday, 17:30)

Kate McGarrigle’s death in 2010 was a major loss for folk music, and the musical family she left behind. Her children, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, have McGarrigle’s influence written all over their careers (sorry Loudon), which they drive home with this tribute concert from 2011. Brace yourself for added emotional intensity from personal photographs and anecdotes, and because no one does emotional intensity quite like the Wainwright/McGarrigle family. AF.

Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay (Tuesday, 21:30)

It’s all in the name, really. If you’re into brutalist architecture, the clanging of metal, and that peculiarly British sense of liberation through grimness, this is the film for you. Starting with industrial legends like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, the film looks at the influences and influence of the genre that bridged the gap between pop music, avant-garde art and post-modern theory. CC.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Tuesday, 21:45 and Sunday, 19:15)

If you’re still feeling sad about Bowie, you can find one of a million rips of Cracked Actor on YouTube, or you can sit in on one of these screenings with a room full of other people sharing your feelings. This classic 1973 concert film is young Bowie in all of his technicolor splendor and still offers the right amount of weird more than 40 years later. We’re not saying we’ll cry during “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” but we’d appreciate it if you’d avert your eyes. AF.

The Possibilities Are Endless (Wednesday, 19:00)

Edwyn Collins is the former Orange Juice frontman, Postcard Records founder, and the guy behind “A Girl Like You,” which his been licensed a million times. His role as respected indie stalwart was nearly destroyed after a brain hemorrhage left him paralyzed down his right side and only able to say “yes,” “no,” his wife’s name, and “the possibilities are endless.” Yet Edwyn is still writing and recording music today, and this is the story of how. AF.

Mavis! (Thursday, 19:15)

Mavis Staples is surely one of the perfect subjects for a documentary film: a lifetime of music, civil-rights activism, and a never-ending string of collaborations with the great and the good in American music (her latest album includes songs written for her by Nick Cave, Neko Case and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon). Take a gander and find out just why everyone wants to work with Mavis, and why Bob Dylan wanted to marry her. CC.

Hot Sugar’s Cold World (Thursday, 21:15)

After splitting up with his girlfriend, field-recording musician Hot Sugar goes hunting for new sounds in Paris. It sounds more like a Tao Lin novel than a music documentary, but if you didn’t convulse with rage while reading Taipei you can probably take this too. But I will admit that this film first sparked my interest because I was not expecting to read the names of both Jim Jarmusch and Neil deGrasse Tyson in the blurb. CC.

The Amazing Nina Simone (Friday, 19:15)

Look, the forthcoming Nina Simone biopic is a trash fire that’s already started smoldering. Forget it exists and look instead to this  semi-authorized documentary about Simone’s incredible work as a jazz singer, a protest singer, and a civil rights activist. It won’t downplay the controversy the music or the person; Simone was a complex character of the sort Americans could take inspiration from in an election year. Let’s not let that be upstaged by a controversial casting decision. AF.

INTRODUCING: Novo Amor

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Attention all ambient folkophiles, you’re in luck. Novo Amor is the brainchild of British multi-instrumentalist Ali Lacey, whose simple acoustic tracks are packed with beautiful, melancholy goodness. Lacey perfectly channels musical inspiration Justin Vernon with whispering falsetto vocals and echoing, shimmery background tones. For the cinematically inclined, the video for top track ‘Holland’ has a grey and windswept pebble beach setting with Lacey giving one of the most believable music video performances by an artist ever. Some even better news? Debut EP Drift and single ‘From Gold’ are both available for free download from the Novo Amor website.

LIVE REVIEW: Volcano Choir, Amager Bio, 18.11.13

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Amager Bio is close to full this evening, people travelling here from Gothenburg to witness Volcano Choir’s first gig in Denmark, and first tour in Europe. As expected at any event concerning Justin Vernon, the beards are out in force.

One of the most locally well-known beards belongs to Cody, opening tonight with a solo acoustic set. Without his six companions, his 20-minute set is squarely folk, with the easy charm of someone on home turf.

The seven-piece begin with “Tiderays”, the opener from their latest album, Repave, and already the dynamic of the band is established. Justin stands centre stage, behind a podium, a preacher largely mute in between songs. Stage banter is left to guitarist Chris Rosenau, who enthuses about Copenhagen and the audience at every opportunity. The rest of the band remains nondescript, beneath a textured backdrop that, under red lighting, appropriately mimics lava.

The band unveil two new songs, which sit at either end of the spectrum of styles and genres Volcano Choir swim in, with some post-hardcore basslines and a verse so reminiscent of Animal Collective’s “Also Frightened” that I find myself singing along to the Collective rather than the Choir. This isn’t, in and of itself, a criticism, but for every great rendition of “Acetate” or “Byegone”, there are moments when things do not completely coalesce, as if Volcano Choir are still struggling to move away from being a Vernon™ project.

Volcano Choir (Photo by Tom Spray)

“Still”, a deconstruction of “Woods” from the band’s first album, ironically is one of the strongest demonstrations of what they are capable of as a unit. The layering of vocal samples cleverly anticipates the phrasings by a beat or two, as if to show how precise Bon Iver’s sound really is, precisely tied to specific frasings and chords. The song is also an example of Justin’s role within the live setup: not simply “lead singer”, but a musician working with the modulations of his own voice.

Whatever stylistic reservations I have, and however allergic to earnestness I may be, the intensity is undeniable, and the pulsating “Almanac” shows a band that can pretty much do and play whatever they like.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

Roskilde Festival 2013 | The Line Up So Far….

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In light of Roskilde Festival’s announcement this morning, at Here Today we thought we’d go to the trouble of compiling a list of the “must see” acts that’ll be performing at this years festival. The full line up is set to be released on the 18th April 2013 but until then heres a list of some of the bands we highly recommend seeing.

Sigur Ros – One of the most highly anticipated acts to play Roskilde this year and an early announcement for the festival organisers. After the release of their 6th studio album ‘Valtari’ the band went on a world wide tour playing most major cities across Europe only to miss out Copenhagen (the highest populated city of Icelander’s outside of Iceland), meaning they had something special up their sleeve and after just announcing they’ll be releasing ‘Kveikur’ in June 2013, their set on the Orange Stage is set up to be an extremely special concert.

Stage prediction: Orange

 

King Krule – Playing under the moniker of King Krule, 18 year old, Archy Marshall paints a picture in his songs of what its like to grow up in this generation in London, UK. He’s been labeled as the Joe Strummer of the 21st century and was recently nominated in the prestigious BBC Sound Of 2013.

Stage prediction: Odeon

 

Animal Collective – Trippy projections, inflatable caves, giant fluorescent teeth….all feature in the world Animal Collective have created themselves on their latest tour. The experimental psychedelic outfit will bring a similar visual set to Roskilde health permitting, they’ve recently had to cancel their US tour due to illness. Fingers crossed!

Stage prediction: Arena

 

Savages – London based all female post-punk/rock band Savages formed in 2011 and quickly rised from the underground scene having gained a reputation with their intense raw live shows. They’re set to release their debut album late 2013.

Stage prediction: Pavilion

 

Crystal Castles – Over the past 5 years electro duo Crystal Castles have been creating festival dance anthems but are better known for their live shows, you’ll generally find Ethan Kath hunched over his synths while Alice Glass is either found reclusively curled up onstage sipping on a bottle of vodka between performing epileptic dance moves or stage diving.

Stage prediction: Arena

 

The National – Last time the band played Roskilde Festival in 2010 to an over flowing tent at Arena, 2013 will surely see them play to the masses at the Orange stage. They’re a band that have seen an increase in popularity since releasing a string of critically acclaimed albums including ‘Alligator’, ‘Boxer’, ‘High Violet’ and are due to release ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ in late May, featuring guest appearances from Sufjan Stevens, St Vincent, Sharon Van Etten and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry. Perhaps we’ll see a collaboration at Roskilde Festival?

Stage prediction: Orange

 

Danny Brown – Exuberant Detroit rapper Danny Brown released his debut album ‘The Hybrid’ in 2010 launching him into the lime light of the US rap scene, his follow up ‘XXX’ was voted #1 hip-hop album of the year by Spin. He’s collaborated with several rap artists including A$AP Rocky and Das Racist. On his next album ‘Old’ (scheduled for release late summer) A$AP Rocky has returned the favour collaborating on said album along with Schoolboy Q, Ab-soul, Kitty and Purity Ring.

Stage prediction: Cosmopolitan

 

Highasakite – After already breaking out of their native Norway, the early part of 2013 has seen the band playing world wide showcases taking them to Eurosonic, By: Larm, SXSW etc. They’re debut EP ‘In And Out Of Weeks’ was release at the start of March, lead single from the EP “Indian Summer” and received praise from both Pitchfork and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.

Stage prediction: Pavilion

 

THE WILDCARD! 

Daft Punk – There was a lot of speculation in January 2013 as to whether Daft Punk will be playing live shows in 2013, several fake announcements were made tipping them to play at Primavera, Wireless and Roskilde to name a few. They appear to remain at the top of most festival goers wish list. Since then theres been a lot of static, until last week when they announced the release of a new album ‘Random Access Memories’ which is set to be released 21st May 2013. If they manage to book the French electronic duo this is what to expect………….

Stage prediction: Orange

 

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