On 2008’s Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us, Joel Thibodeau—better known as Death Vessel—offered up a stack of songs that were rooted in ’60s folk and all of its components, including jazz, bluegrass and country. The centerpiece in all of that was, of course, Thibodeau’s haunting voice, which could easily be mistaken for a woman’s. He’s able to squeeze a lot of emotion from songs that are relatively barebones.
On his latest full-length, Island Intervals, Thibodeau counters chilly production with a few more bells and whistles, no doubt aided by his collaborator Alex Somers, who’s made similar gentle touches with Sigur Rós. It was recorded in Reykjavik, and you can almost feel the Icelandic chill throughout the album.
Most of Island Intervals is a dreamlike walk through the tundra—or, better yet, the alien surface of an uncharted planet. The arrangements are a little more jagged, and there are more bits and pieces to wrap your ears around, but Thibodeau still allows plenty of silence to prop up those moments. Especially on “Triangulated Heart” and closer “Loom,” which are vast and hypnotically sparse.
Even the more elated bass lines found on “Velvet Antlers” (one of the album highlights) and “Island Vapors” are met with trickles of quiet. Thibodeau’s harmonies with himself provide some of the album’s warmest moments, save for the entirety of “We Agreed,” which is brimming with longing and sweetness. “Ilsa Drown” features Sigur Rós vocalist Jónsi and harkens back to Death Vessel’s earlier material.
Island Intervals marks a giant leap for Thibodeau, while not veering too far from his own trodden trail. Call it future folk, but in 10 years we’ll be calling it timeless.