The last we heard from Providence, Rhode Island-based songwriter Joel Thibodeau aka Death Vessel was the earthy fare of 2008's Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us. While that album wasn't exclusively folk music, its acoustic core was in line with the woodsier tendencies of Thibodeau's songwriting, serving as a gentle and sometimes dark backdrop for his uncommonly high voice and sentimental moods. Death Vessel comes out of a six-year hiatus with Island Intervals, an icily beautiful album that veers away from the campfire reflections of past albums and into far more sophisticated arrangements, production, and songwriting. The frosty feel of the album is presumably owed in no small part to the involvement of Icelandic collaborators Samuli Kosminen from Múm and Alex Somers, who has worked closely with Sigur Rós. Recording in Reykjavik, the team injected a glistening sheen of distant dreaminess into Thibodeau's always developing songwriting. Opening with the organ-driven "Ejecta," clangy sample-based rhythms and choruses of frozen backing vocals support the song's ghostly melodies, gelling into a slab of majestic orchestral pop on par with Björk's most haunting Vespertine-era material. Even "Ilsa Drown," a tune that opens with a patently folky fingerpicked acoustic guitar figure, quickly develops into a glowing bed of winter ambience and subtle quavering electronic sounds. "Triangulated Heart" is one of the more melodic songs of the set, with processed bell sounds and chimes gliding around a dreamy singsong melody before evaporating into a blur of aquatic vocal effects. The album is one full of highlights, with a sad beauty surrounding it that makes these songs immediately deeper, more connective, and more exciting than anything Death Vessel has brought us before.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas