Justin Vernon, better known by his band name Bon Iver, sought seclusion when struck by a period of loss in his life. He spent three months in northern Wisconsin, alone in a cabin surrounded by eighty acres of wood, in the middle of winter. His time in isolation is translated in the evocative Woods.
The unusually barren yet expansive soundscape of Woods is empty of instrumentals, powered solely by Vernon’s acapella vocals. A spare two lines of lyrics (I’m up in the woods, I’m down on my mind / I’m building a sill to slow down the time) are repeated throughout, manipulated and harmonized in autotuned layers. The effect of Vernon’s sound experimentation is sublime, embodying the full scope of his experience and at once capturing the complex emotional nuances of isolation, redemption, and beauty.
Woods is the last track on Vernon’s 2009 EP Blood Bank. The track was sampled by Kanye West in his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in Lost In the World.
Feature Image: Ju On, on Unsplash, Creative Commons