bvdub: Resistance is Beautiful

In some ways, Resistance Is Beautiful is a prototypical bvdub recording. As per usual, the tracks are long-form (five in this case, ranging from eleven to seventeen minutes), and their titles are wistful, even disconsolate and downtrodden in tone (e.g., “Gone Tomorrow”), much as they have been on past bvdub collections. But the album departs dramatically from the established bvdub style in being surprisingly jubilant in tone and spirit. There's more than a mere spring in the music's step, and it's not simply because beats are included: the tracks are not just sunny, they're downright euphoric in places, and when the fourth piece, “This is Why You'll Never Win,” adds a vocal swirl the material begins to sound like bvdub's highly personalized take on trance. Perhaps the album title provides some explanation for the change in suggesting that defiance is preferable to surrender. Certainly the material exudes to a far greater degree the strength and determination characteristic of the former than the resignation one associates with the latter.

But don't get the wrong idea: Brock Van Wey hasn't abandoned his signature sound but rather modified it. Melancholy is still the emotional foundation, ambient splendour still abounds, the tracks' layers as always assemble themselves ever so patiently, and the ultra-dense, loop-based settings effect their usual hypnotic pull upon the listener. As one illustration of the modification in question, the opening eight minutes of “What Happened to Us” adhere to the bvdub template in weaving voices, pianos, guitars, and electronics into a grandiose slab of supplication until, suddenly, a gritty funk pattern appears to give the material a rhythmic heft not usually heard in Van Wey's music. The already entrancing nature of bvdub's music is deepened by the inclusion of chant-like vocals during “Nothing Like You,” and “Gone Tomorrow” is animated by, of all things, a low-riding funk-house pulse. The aforementioned “This is Why You'll Never Win” wastes no time getting its serious groove on, with a bass-heavy rumble in place almost from the outset and other elements falling into formation quickly thereafter. Van Wey takes the material to a whole other level at the eight-minute mark, however, when the beat pattern morphs into a heavy, hi-hat-driven thump and the vocal interweave grows ever more delirious. It's a particularly arresting moment on what amounts to an altogether head-spinning outing from the bvdub production facility.

January 2012