Review: Bon Iver – i,i
It’s clear from the start of Justin Vernon’s fourth Bon Iver album it’s not going to be an easy listen. Even when, after Yi’s burst of musique concrète, he begins singing, his voice – or is it James Blake’s, because he’s in there, too, somewhere? – is treated, garbled and warbling. But the song, iMi, makes sense of seemingly disparate sections, and Vernon trusts us to do the same with his complex, studio-stimulated construction methods, just as Mark Hollis once did.
So while i,i first appears as impenetrably alien as his lyrics – which often flip from incomprehensible (Salem’s “there’s no anorneric dream”) to bizarre (Hey, Ma’s opening lines, “I waited outside/ I took it remote/ I wanted a bath”), it reveals a compelling, albeit indefinable poetry, both linguistically and musically.
Hey, Ma, in fact, blossoms with restraint, while Faith’s vulnerability muscles up without losing its sensitivity, and Marion’s acoustic guitar even recalls his first, fragile album, though its arrangements are as challenging as they’re warm. Enigmatic tearjerker Salem, on the other hand, finds him flirting with pop, and on U (Man Like) he imitates the Bee Gees with Bruce Hornsby by his side. Think of Bon Iver, then, as a Peter Gabriel for the millennial generation.