Brock Van Wey: Home
Echospace [Detroit]

Brock Van Wey's issued a huge number of bvdub releases but far fewer under his birth name, which makes this latest double-CD release something of an event for devotees of the highly individualized soundscaping for which the China-based American producer is known. Adding to its significance is the fact that Home appears on Stephen Hitchell's Echospace [Detroit], which issued Van Wey's much-admired White Clouds Drift On and On five years ago. But whereas that epic collection splits its contents between one CD of original material and a CD of remix versions, Home is Van Wey from start to finish, and that it is so seems all the more amazing when one considers not only the volume of music featured on the collection itself—150-plus minutes—but the staggering amount of music he's produced in the years leading up to its release.

While Van Wey's heartfelt music has always been distinguished by an emotional dimension of exceptional intensity, Home takes it up a notch or two in presenting ten long-form meditations that scale oft-ecstatic heights. Though no instrumentation details are provided (par for the course on a Van Wey release), the typical Home setting wraps piano and vocal melodies in an immense, billowing haze and develops in stages, in certain moments swelling to a euphoric pitch (never more so than during disc two's “Wish I Could Say More Than This”) and in others decompressing as the ground is cleared for the next ascent. As the oft-mournful music develops, its hypnotic and seductive character relaxes the listener's defences and draws him/her into its slow-motion vortex.

“You Built a Kingdom, but No One Said its Name” offers a perfect example of Van Wey's oceanic sound, even if it does undergo a marked character shift halfway through when a synthesizer appears amidst the string washes and soulful female singing (“If you could only see me now…”); a similar alteration occurs at the start of the second disc when the strums and piercing cry of an electric guitar—a sound rarely heard on a Van Wey production—appear alongside angelic voices during “Got to Carry On.” Also representative of the album's elegiac tone are “Than to Ever Have Lived at All,” whose melodic progressions and organ-laced sound design are particularly heavenly, and the rapturous closer “Walk Through Walls (For Sh).” The prettier side of his music comes to the fore during “We Built Steps to the Sky” and “Can't Go Home Without You” in the quietly uplifting piano episodes with which the pieces begin. While voices, keyboards, and string washes are plentiful, beats are largely absent on Home, though a simple kick drum pattern does contribute forward momentum to the twenty-one-minute dreamscape “A Heart of Darkness.”

In keeping with its title, Home is suffused with a powerful sense of longing, like a sweetly sorrowful memory of a time nostalgically longed for yet hopelessly out of reach. Is it Van Wey's greatest statement to date? Without wishing to diminish the exceptional quality of the albums that came before it, this Echospace set certainly sounds like the pinnacle of his musical career thus far.

June 2014