Music review: Volcano Choir, Barbican, London

'A mind-blowing eruption of folk-rock, post-punk and electronica'

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The Independent Culture

“He’s a legend/ I’m a legend/ And we both go tripping through the floor,” maintains Justin Vernon on the muscular “Byegone”. The rousing track, from Volcano Choir’s new album Repave, is redolent of the National at their most brooding with some Matt Berninger-style riddling to match: “Tossin’ off your compliments, wow/ Sexing all your Parliaments.”

Former cabin dweller Vernon, with his Grammy-winning Bon Iver seemingly in permanent hiatus, is channelling all his energies into his meatier “side project”, Volcano Choir, a collaboration with members of the experimental post-rockers Collections of Colonies of Bees. Their 2009 debut, Unmap, was a minimalist and slightly challenging affair.

Repave is crisper, more confident and Vernon is clearly enthused (he even dances) by the three nimble guitarists beside him. Particularly by the hyperactive Chris Rosenau who does most of the talking tonight and, in his excitement, falls over during an epic “Still”, a sample of Bon Iver's “Woods”. Vernon tell us that “Still” will “hopefully will fuck your brain up”, and it's certainly a psychedelic slice of electronica with Vernon's distinctive falsetto to the fore.

“Still” concludes a sensational four-song section that includes an exquisitely hushed “Alaskans”, “Acetate” (which recalls early Peter Gabriel) and “Byegone”. It's a mind-blowing eruption (sorry) of folk-rock, post-punk and electronica. A triumph.