Justin Vernon looks at despair and sees hope. Her new single, a benefit to the humanitarian relief organization Direct Relief, is titled “PDLIF”, which means “Please don’t live in fear”. In the midst of the coronavirus’ death and uncertainty, Vernon and his collaborators worked on the song through isolated cooperation, passing the file between them and each of the elements contributing to its structure. The heart of the collective work is a sample of “Visit Croatia” by Manchester saxophonist Alabaster DePlume. In this disturbing instrument, three ascending notes tease a brighter melody that never happens. However, Vernon and his co-producers, Jim-E Stack and BJ Burton, build their monument to hope on this motif; it’s as if their construction was the realization of happiness that DePlume was holding back.
“PDLIF”, in turn, is uplifting and full of heart, brimming with emphatic and reassuring vocal performances. The segmented origins of the song give it a greater sense of unity, achieving the collage effect of Bon Iver I, I. The disconnected parts, whether the string arrangements by Rob Moose or the soprano by Kacy Hill, are detours in their respective sounds, inviting you to live in another world for a few seconds. They coincide around the DePlume motif, which functions as a reminder of the deep darkness that dictated the creation of the new song. Although this particular part of light was born out of darkness, “PDLIF” suggests that patience can be found in unusual and frightening circumstances.
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