Bon Iver and James Blake are artists of very different styles, but both are in possession of adventurous and visionary spirits. A chance encounter at Austin, TX based festival SXSW in March between Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and long time admirer Blake sparked the embers for collaboration. Now the London based Blake is on the brink of possibly more critical acclaim (his eponymous debut has been nominated for the imminent Mercury Awards) and while Vernon tours and basks in the critical recognition for Bon Iver’s second album (reviewed here), the first fruit of this collaborative effort has revealed itself to the world in the form of ‘Fall Creek Boys Choir’.
The song introduces itself with Vernon’s recognisable vocals before Blake’s reverberating, dissonant piano chords make their entrance and are joined by Blake’s stark percussion and sonar-like samples. The bulk of the track’s influence is definitely made up of Blake’s music and production, sounding similar to ‘Lindisfarne II’ or ‘Unluck’. However, Vernon’s always heartfelt vocals bring warmth that contrasts with Blake’s vocals which at times can sound a tad cold or distant. As the track progresses Vernon’s multilayered choral vocal melodies soar above Blake’s melancholic instrumentation and lift the song to more profound heights.
The postscript beneath the featured Youtube video enigmatically states ‘Enough Thunder – Oct 2011’, hinting at more to come. Hopefully a future effort will be more balanced between the two artists and feature both Blake and Vernon duetting as their vocal talents would complement one another nicely in the right setting. However, for now ‘Fall Creek Boys Choir’ has plenty of potential and shows ample promise for what may, with any luck, propagate into a full album. Stay tuned.