Please Don’t Live In Fear: Bon Iver’s message to a quarantined world

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The silence that knocks on our window is faced by the power of Music.

There are many musicians who in this quarantine from Covid have helped the world public with musical therapies. We have daily marathons of live streaming, artists who have created new tracks to dedicate to the countries most affected by this pandemic, simple live performances on social networks with the aim of keeping company with those who are stuck in their own apartments.

Among these musicians we also find Bon Iver. The Indie folk american band with leader Justin Vernon wanted to leave a different mark, an intimate and close message for its audience.

PDLIF is their new single unreleased few days ago. At this link you can find the streaming of the song:

PDFLIF is an acronym for Please Don’t Live In Fear. The song, produced by Justin Vernon himself, is a manifesto of friendship and felt similarity with the public and with all the people who are facing this health emergency. The proceeds from the purchase of the track, available on the website of the independent label Jagjaguwar, will be donated to the non-governmental association Direct Relief which will supply the suitable equipment for all the laboratories affected during this pandemic.

This new song is also subtitled as Season Five, Episode 1. A cryptic definition that could announce the coming of a new album but that could also be an allusion to a new season of humanity that the world mass media are announcing. Humans, however, are already experiencing the fifth season of their existence. The spiritual void that has broken the first months of 2020 in two, is forcing us to live in our houses without having human contacts and plans for the future. The fifth season is the one that nobody expected to have to live. The one in which each of us is learning to paint and fill the tunnel we have all fallen in.

Like drops hitting our windows, the notes tell us that we are not alone, that we must not be afraid and everything will be fine.

In PDLIF‘s sound we find all the communicative power of the fourth album of Bon Iver, i,i which the band released last summer. An independent record project that marked a strong evolution in the development of the Bon Iver sound. The Electric Folk (or Folktronic) notes that have characterized Vernon and his musicians from the beginning, have been now converted into a plan of artistic evolution focused on an pure emotional communication. The musical genre of Bon Iver, in fact, is almost undefinable today. It overcomes the dreamlike dimension and experimental perspective. Their transversal communication is literally visceral and fraternal.

The Bon Iver’s music idea was born in the 2000s, when Justin moved from North Carolina to Wisconsin. Bon Iver is a distortion of the French phrase “Bon hiver”, which means “good winter”. This phrase was like an echo in Vernon’s mind both because he was passionate about the TV series Northern Exposure, in which “Bon hiver” was the official greeting of the characters, and because the mononucleosis effects he had taken a few years earlier made him suffer greatly the winter of Wisconsin. Physical pain, a sense of isolation and above all panic attacks have always been the productive energies of Justin Vernon’s musical genius.

Bon Iver’s record fortune started in 2007 when the independent label Jagjaguwar saw in this band a product able to satisfy the audience’s wish of Indie but, above all of, the hunger of the listeners for an innovative and unique sound. The Bon Iver’s sound was not particularly influenced by other artists. Their individual music, indeed, gave to the audience the chance to discover new emotional corners of the soul. In the past 13 years the band has released four albums and an EP. As we have already said, Bon Iver have transformed their musical frame. They started from a pure Indie folk, composed of the romantic and introspective ballads of the first album For Emma, For Ever Ago, up to a different experimentalism, almost indefinable compared to the many musical genres that we know today. In the last album i,i choruses and pianos, mingle with electrical distortions and guitars, create evocative and surreal sounds. i,i is a record product able to arouse the discovery of new, light and deep emotions. From chaos to peace, from loneliness to friendship, we can find a hymn to the human being and to the love we feel towards our wonderful and fragile society.

PDLIF could be a perfect single from i,i. It has several things in common with the songs of this album, such as the imperceptible sensitivity, the awareness of human frailty and electronic experimentalism. But unfortunately lacks of an official video, an added element that made the tracks of i, i really special. The communicative power of i,i,‘s tracks was strengthened by the videos loaded on Bon Iver’s official Youtube channel, in which dancing figures of all races let themselves be overwhelmed by moments of emotional confusion. The human being becomes in those images an active form, which communicates with nature, while colors and words that appear on the screen in an illegible way. The dazzling visions of the video represent a metaphysical expression of the tracks’s lyrics. 

For example the song iMi is expressed, on the screen, through a melancholy and free dance. The altered voice gives way to a harmonious chorus carried by the strings of a delicate guitar. Indiscernible truths about human feelings are revealed by the vocal sounds of a female echoes. The electronic distortions are alternated with ambient moment and a jazz perspective. Also the track Holyfields is a metaphysical tale about the human race. The “annoying electronic noises” give the right expression to the borders of our lives, which is translated into images of dunes of a desert difficult to cross. Naeem is an intimate conversation with one’s soul. The piano directs the steps of the narration. A gritty and desperate voice frees itself from the worries of life. In its video images we find a huge stone suspended in the city traffic that seems to have descended to earth to give an important message to the people. And finally Jelmore is the most dystopic track of i,i. The scratchy initial notes lead the listeners to a communicative level that becomes more and more warm. A woman dances in a confused but harmonious way. She seems lost, perhaps drunk and yet manages to probe the peaks of the hills, while the wind caresses her clothes.

All these songs are similar to PDLIF for one simple reason. In their sound the humane race is the leading actor of a movie about the emergency of telling.

The most vivid sense of Bon Iver’s artistic last message lies in these verses of PDLIF:

Please don’t live in fear
We can’t see from here right now
Send it off from here
And free your mind

In a few words the band lets the audience know that it is still here, that it is probably experiencing the same anxieties as the others. The communicative power of their artistic meaning could be expressed through the image of a nutshell in which the listeners find a shelter. When the fantasy seems to have abandoned the colors of our existence, the Bon Iver make us aware that an alternative world exists. This alternative dimension can become our way of a daily expression, a personal lifestyle, able to give a shape to all the fragile emotions that we carry inside our chest.

Bon Iver is a band that has a truly confidential relationship with its audience. Their live concerts are events similar to the reunion of a “sect of the inexplicable sensations”.

The i,i world tour has already undergone some date changes. Vernon and his team members are expected at the Assago Forum in Milan for next November for a unique Italian date in 2020.

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