bvdub: A Careful Ecstasy
It's been a remarkable thing to witness the changes in bvdub's music over the past few years. Gradually distancing himself from the purely meditative style of the earlier releases, Brock Van Wey's latest bvdub opus, A Careful Ecstasy, can be heard as a culmination of sorts—even if the style will presumably continue to evolve as future releases appear. The recording, which arrives not long after the 2012 full-lengths Serenity (Darla) and All is Forgiven (n5MD), perpetuates the highly personalized melding of styles Van Wey pursued on those outings, a fusion that pulls trance, ambient, funk, and deep house into its hypnotic orbit, and on sonic grounds, the emotive material is rooted in combinations of electric piano, vocals, string washes, and beats.
Opener “Another Love” emerges in a haze of swirls before the beats kick in at the two-minute mark followed by the soulful ululations of a female singer moments later. The music exudes an epic character, its washes veritably oceanic in scale and the production design equally large-scale, while its vibe is by turns melancholic, hopeful, and uplifting. The opening minutes of “If I Had Been A Better Man” up the epic ante and in doing so invite comparison to Phil Spector's infamous “wall of sound” production aesthetic (interestingly, a swinging, slightly gospel-tinged episode follows that beginning). A male singer digs into “My Hinami” with an even more soulful turn, a move complemented by a backing that likewise embraces full-on the album's deep house spirit. The later “Through The Lower Room, We Rise Higher” makes as strong an impression, though it does so courtesy of an understatedly impassioned performance by its female vocalist.
The shortest of the album's tracks, “It Was For You, It Was For Us” provides a comparatively gentler stopping-point in eschewing beats altogether and focusing instead on cultivating a dream-like mood in its use of soothing vocals (lead and background) and delicate instrumental atmospheres. True to bvdub form, the tracks are long (five of the seventy-eight-minute collection's six settings push past the twelve-minute mark), and the album title proves to be especially apt: while ecstatic, the album's carefully calibrated material never spins into out-of-control delirium. A Careful Ecstasy shows once again how easy it can be to get lost in bvdub's alluring music.