This past winter, I sat down and read a biography on Bon Iver, entitled Bon Iver-Good Winter, written by Mark Beaumont. Whilst it was all very interesting learning about how Justin Vernon went from studying religion at university to creating that song (‘Skinny Love’, for those who may have been living under a rock since 2008), what stood out was Vernon’s appreciation of Sean Carey’s talents, not just as a drummer, but in developing the sound of Bon Iver into what was heard on the eponymous second record. Carey was the first member of Bon Iver to be hired alongside Vernon, and over his own solo records (this being his second, after 2010’s All We Grow), Vernon’s influence can be heard in the similar style of vocals and the actual instrumentation of each song. This is tailor made to appeal to the Bon Iver market, as fans clamber to hear anything which may pass for new material from the collective.
Range of Light is a delicate record, almost designed to be played at night, with the deep textured nature of the tracks creating a dreamlike atmosphere. If you were to play this record over a stereo, chances are some of the subtleties Carey creates would be lost. This is definitely a record to be appreciated over headphones; hearing the patter of rain turn into a repeated drum refrain (‘Creaking’) and the first plucked string leading into ‘Fire-scene’. Vocally, Carey chooses to refrain from using that oft criticised software which rappers are fond of, Autotune, and instead relies on his own soft voice to convey the lyrics. This is no bad thing-Carey has developed since All We Grow into a more confident, assured singer.
Justin Vernon has seemingly put Bon Iver to bed for the foreseeable future to focus on other projects, meaning Carey found time to create Range of Light, and if anything good has come out of the ‘retirement’ of Bon Iver, Carey is it. Hopefully now it won’t be another four years before he releases another LP, as with 9 tracks such as these, it will only serve to whet the appetite of fans across the world.
Words: Joe Sweeting