From Reykjavik with love

Joel Thibodeau guides Death Vessel back home
By CHRIS CONTI  |  March 19, 2014

'ISLAND' IN THE SUN Thibodeau makes a sonic leap on 'Intervals.' [Photo by Corey Grayhorse]

After a six-year absence, Joel Thibodeau’s Death Vessel has finally re-emerged with a new, critically acclaimed album titled Island Intervals (Sub Pop), and will celebrate with a hometown record release show at the Columbus Theatre this Sunday (the 23rd). Thibodeau’s hypnotic (and sometimes unsettling) signature falsetto remains the star of the show, and the sound was further inspired this time around by a three-month recording session in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Island Intervals is Thibodeau’s third full-length release (and second for Sub Pop) as Death Vessel, following 2008’s Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us and the ’05 debut Stay Close. His Providence music roots date back to the late ’90s in the band as String Builder, alongside his brother, Alec K. Redfearn. We hadn’t heard much from Thibodeau over the past few years until the Low Anthem invited Death Vessel to perform at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival’s “Homegrown” stage. He also welcomed an offer from Sigur Ros singer Jónsi Birgisson and producer Alex Somers to travel to Iceland to record the new album, with help from longtime collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Pete Donnelly (NRBQ, the Figgs). Thibodeau clearly was inspired by the glacial surroundings and his reedy, impossibly high register complements the eight songs that comprise Island Intervals.

The creaky pump organ on the opener, “Ejecta” (recently highlighted on NPR’s All Songs Considered), wearily escorts Thibodeau and the trudging rhythm before giving way to the twinkling uptempo gem “Velvet Antlers.” This one leans more toward the Postal Service than the “neo-indie-folk” tag. “Mercury Dime” gallops along like a twisted fairy tale, with a trippy video (filmed at the Columbus) to match. Jonsi lends vocals to “Ilsa Drown” and the results are stunning. “Island Vapors” is another personal favorite, as Thibodeau cruises along with the subtle and steady waves of percussion. It’s easy to envision him penning a song like “We Agreed” under starry skies. And the ethereal chant on the closing track, “Loom,” accompanies the chain-gang stomp while a contemplative Thibodeau notes, “I don’t know how to behave, when there’s nothing in my way.”

The homecoming show this weekend will serve as a tour kickoff for Death Vessel, with headlining dates in the US and Canada through the rest of the month, before they set sail for Europe in April supporting Marissa Adler.

Be sure to get to the Columbus early and catch a rare set from Chris Daltry’s legendary Purple Ivy Shadows. Daltry also co-founded the ’Mericans, which covered Death Vessel on the excellent Tribute to Providence compilation, and Thibodeau recently debuted his new songs during an intimate set at Daltry’s What Cheer Antiques & Vintage shop.

Pick up Island Intervals at the show or visit ($10/download, $12/CD, $14/vinyl).

DEATH VESSEL + PURPLE IVY SHADOWS | Sunday, March 23 @ 7 pm | Columbus Theatre, 270 Broadway, Providence | All ages | $12 |

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Just before the templates went through the pipe to the printers, we received Thibodeau’s responses to a few e-mailed Qs.

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