Death Vessel: Island Intervals (Sub Pop)

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Death Vessel: We Agreed
Death Vessel: Island Intervals (Sub Pop)

It does seem odd that the label which brought us Nirvana should now be so attached to alt.folk (and sometime mope.folk) with Luluc and Death Vessel.

DV is in fact singer Joel Thibodeau (born in Germany, raised in the States) and any number of fellow travelers for the past decade, although for this album -- his third as Death Vessel -- he has honed it down to mostly just three or four pals.

Thibodeau's voice is certainly distinctive.

It sometimes seems impossibly high (but not like Antony) yet piercingly powerful, so it's no surprise DV have toured with Jonsi of Sigur Ros who guests here on his own Ilsa Drown and who helped Thibodeau record this in Reykjavik.

And at times Thibodeau sounds very feminine. Try Triangulated Heart on a listening test.

It is often offset here by grisly noise in the far midground and that adds a disconcerting feel to these pop length ruminations, eight songs in 34 minutes.

He's also smart enough to keep a pop consciousness in his songs, so Mercury Dime could sit easily on late night indie.radio, and it's also delightfully arranged with clinking kalimba alongside the backing vocals.

And he and Jonsi mesh easily on the folksy Ilsa Drown.

But it is his metaphysical lyrics -- and sometimes his use of archaisms like "for the nonce" in Triangulated Heart -- which also make this album especially attractive.

In the final song Loom he sings about the universe being in his room and "I don't know how to behave when there's nothing in my way, battles to choose, which creatures to refuse".

His emotional world is a mysterious place ("the wooden ladder on the wall depends on two separate rooms, growing higher an higher with every hesitative move") and a very nice place to visit.

Want to consider the out reaches of the human voice? Then check out this, and this . . . and this woman, if you dare? 

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