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Justin Vernon And Aaron Dessner Have A New Band — And A New Way To Listen

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon has teamed up with Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National to form a new band (Big Red Machine) and an artists' collective called PEOPLE.
Courtesy of the artist
Bon Iver's Justin Vernon has teamed up with Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National to form a new band (Big Red Machine) and an artists' collective called PEOPLE.

Bon Iver may take its time between albums, but bandleader Justin Vernon remains a geyser of ideas in his off hours. On Wednesday, he and a pair of fellow idea-geysers — The National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner — launched a new platform for listening, called PEOPLE, and populated it with a trove of music. That trove includes songs by the duo of Aaron Dessner and Vernon, recording under the name Big Red Machine.

Your curiosity about Big Red Machine can be sated by popping over and streaming four of its songs, which blend Vernon's characteristically oblique and poetic words with a busy collage of sounds. Then, you can dig through an archive of new and/or previously unreleased music by Vernon (check out his page for a rabbit hole of rare music), the Dessners (in a project called Red Bird Hollow), Marijuana Deathsquads, Poliça, This Is The Kit and many more. (For a slightly deeper cut, try this angelic recording from Invisible Boy.)

To put it mildly, this is not a slickly rendered website: It's basically a list of crude hyperlinks with a streaming radio station and links to stream individual songs on demand. The site's mission statement makes clear that it's intended primarily as a home "for all the raw, the unpackaged, the experiments and the evolved ideas."

Elsewhere, the site's organizers explain the ideas behind PEOPLE, which will also spawn an ambitious concert event at Funkhaus in Berlin on August 18-19.

"We are a steadily growing group of artists, freely creating and sharing our work with each other and everyone," the organizers write. "We call it PEOPLE. 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. PEOPLE is for the benefit and development of the artists involved and just as importantly, for those who would like to access and enjoy the output. It is as much about the process of making work and showing all that openly, as the final outcome."

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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