'Blood Bank' puts paid to any talk of a one-hit wonder...
Mark Perlaki

18:12 18th January 2009

And what a year 2008 turned out for Justin Vernon and Bon Iver. Starting as a one man vision all snowed under in the hunting lodge with the cinders of lost love and venison stew, 'For Emma, Forever Ago' went on to scoop Rough Trade Records and multiple music polls as the top album of 2008. Some may beg to differ, but the allure of the album has not waned and the live performances that Bon Iver have been putting in are testament to a band intent to explore sound and texture. This four track EP, 'Blood Bank', was the result of some six recording sessions and finds more tools at Bon Iver's disposal than the Wisconsin shack could permit. Piano, vocoder and lap steel are utilised, and whilst the seasons feature as a framing reference, 'Blood Bank' finds the snows thawing and the meditative songs exploring an idiosyncratic texture and ambiance.

'Blood Bank' is one of those tracks that have been getting a live airing and sounds almost Springsteen-ian, a touch of the magic of the melancholy on what is a snapshot of a story - "...then the snow started falling/ we were stuck out in your car/ you started rubbing both my hands..." proving to be a warm bear-hug full of shimmers and silences. 'Beach Baby' has Vernon deliver in high falsetto with a steel guitar and a voice all a flutter as lap steel adds a touch of wistfulness like the passing of summer or a seaside town out of season, while on 'Babys' a Philip Glass-like repetition of piano keys for a minute and a half introduces the most experimental and abstract moment, Vernon singing as if in reverie - "...I'm up in the woods/ I'm down on my mind/ I'm building a still/ to slow down the time..." like a musical abstraction of spring's first shoots.
 
Even the most generous of fans will be challenged to embrace the vocoder of 'Woods' which is most often given over to cheesy pop or dance genres, but which Vernon uses a Cappella to build layers and textures of voice like echoes in a tunnel. (Cher ghosts whispering into consciousness). 'Blood Bank', however, puts paid to any talk of a one-hit wonder. The experimental bent in Bon Iver is keenly attested here, and whilst 'For Emma, Forever Ago' is an utterly complete work, signs are that Bon Iver will be penning many a stand-alone song.

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