bvdub: A History of Distance

Time was when a recording artist released a new album once a year or even every two years. In a few well-publicized cases, an entire generation has been born and grown up in the time between certain bands' album releases—one thinks of My Bloody Valentine, Kraftwerk, and Guns'N'Roses as cases in point. Many so-called electronic artists, on the other hand, release multiple full-lengths within a single year, often doing so on different labels. One such figure is Brock Van Wey, whose releases under his own name and bvdub alias have become increasingly plentiful during the past decade. Even a cursory review of its contents reveals that there are things about his latest bvdub collection, A History of Distance, that align it to its predecessors. Like his other releases, the new one leaves the listener in the dark about how it was created, the only production detail included being one crediting Van Wey as the writer and producer. So the music must be taken, as some would argue it should be anyway, purely on its own terms.

On the seventy-eight-minute release, Van Wey's predilection for ultra-dense, long-form tracks of vocal and instrumental splendour is once again evident, as is his talent for crafting emotionally expressive settings of grandiose symphonic scope that draw upon multiple genres—ambient, electronica, funk, and soul, among them—during their circuitous sojourns. And with tracks ranging between fifteen and twenty-three minutes, Van Wey's able to undertake his builds at a slow and gradual pace, which makes their eventual climaxes all the more powerful when they materialize. An occasional dance-related groove surfaces also at various moments (most memorably a punchy garage-inflected shuffle that arises within the album-closing title track), but labeling bvdub's tracks dance music would be a gross misrepresentation.

Representative of the album is “Everything Between You and Me,” which ascends ever so steadily over the course of its opening ten minutes, the music swelling as more and more vocal and instrumental layers accumulate. But then, in characteristic bvdub fashion, decompression sets in, as if the music needs to catch its breath before undertaking the next climb. In the equally epic “Silver Altars Run to Rivers,” reverb-drenched piano melodies appear wrapped in synthesizer swirls and accompanied by vocal murmurs. Things happen in stages in bvdub's world, with in this case the singing developing into vocal counterpoint and a lurching beat pattern also folding itself into the ever-building sound mass. With all of the elements working in concert and the temperature rising, yearning asserts itself as the dominant emotion, especially when the beats fall away and the vocals move to the forefront. Par for the bvdub course, elements appear, drop out, and then re-appear as the track in question advances. Van Wey's output might be plentiful, but this latest addition to his discography shows that his music has lost none of its capacity to mesmerize.

November 2014