Big Red Machine’s Debut Album Breaks Barriers

By Elizabeth Johns, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Bon Iver vocalist Justin Vernon is back with another genre-breaking album.

Working with Aaron Dessner, member of The National, the two comrades have turned their backs on ordinary sounds of the indie scene, searching for a new kind of music.

The album points towards an electronic-indie fusion that is unique for the artists, straying from their usual acoustic sound.

A new music platform founded by the duo connects artists from all over the world and was the basis for the new album.

The platform is described on the company’s website as “a steadily growing group of artists, freely creating and sharing our work with each other and everyone. We call it PEOPLE,” they write. “It was born of a wish to establish an independent and nurturing space in which to make work (generally around music) that is collaborative, spontaneous and expressive in nature and where all unnecessary distractions or obstacles that get in the way are removed.”

“Deep Green,” track number one, makes its presence with the first electronic beats that echo throughout the album.

Gratitude plays along with “Deep Green,” repeating the same electronic beats and autotuned vocals that are reminiscent of Bon Iver’s latest album, 22, A Million.

In an interview with NPR, Vernon and Dessner discussed how the third track, “Lyla,” came to be.

“It started with Aaron making a lot of beats on his iPhone on tour,” said Vernon. “On [Lyla] specifically, there were just ideas that we had: ‘We want this person to play on this section — I think they would really bring their heart and individuality to this part of the song.’ Usually we have them record too much stuff, and then we kind of edit it down and mix it all in.”

Dessner spoke about the unfinished aspect of the album, and the effect on their thought process when making the record.

“…We were really kind of reaching out and embracing this process, leaving the songs open to possibility and interpretation, and kind of intentionally not finishing them,” said Dessner. “So that’s why, I think, the record has that kind of wilder, unfinished, in-process feeling. And that’s a lot of this People energy that we’re trying to encourage,”

Air Stryp, by far the most produced song on the album and farthest away from the duo’s usual style, creates a climax for the record.

Dessner explains in the interview his feelings towards the fifth track.

“The song “Hymnostic” is kind of a gospel song, and that song is really fun to sing with as many people as possible. And anyone can sing it, you know?” said Dessner.

Vernon describes a different angle the song could have taken.

“I think “Hymnostic” could have been done with fiddles and banjos, and it’d almost be better for that song,” said Vernon. “But we wanted to stick the song on there, so we kind of dressed it up to stand alongside its brothers and sisters.”

“OMDB (Over My Dead Body)” and “People Lullaby” continue the album with a more acoustic sound and hand over the limelight to the next track, “I Won’t Right From It.”

The track brings a brightness to the overall electronic and heavily produced album, and includes the chorus heard throughout the album.

“Melt,” the tenth and final track in the collection, brings back the back the drama communicated in the previous songs.

While the track contains the distorted electric guitar that grabs the attention of the listener, the chorus rounds out the song, creating an ending that repeats, “Well you are who you are, well you are who you are, well you are who you are…”

The album can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, and for free on PEOPLE’s website.


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