Compilations / Mixes
Brock Van Wey's bvdub sound has undergone a dramatic transformation the past little while, and it's been an amazing thing to witness. Only time will tell if the direction pursued on the earlier Darla album, Resistance is Beautiful, and this latest one, Serenity (the two arriving mere months apart), is something permanent or one more chapter in a still-developing story. The beats on the earlier collection are in even fuller bloom on Serenity, and as such the album often plays like bvdub's highly personalized take on trance, with all of the ecstatic and hypnotic qualities that go along with it. As listeners familiar with the canon know, the typical bvdub piece is often epic in length, and Serenity is no exception. Its six pieces stretch out to seventy-seven minutes, with the shortest just shy of ten minutes and the longest creeping towards eighteen. Longer track times naturally lend themselves to trance, of course, with the music able to reach progressively greater heights as the minutes advance, and consequently bvdub and trance turn out to be natural bedfellows.
The choral splendour that gradually builds throughout the opening minutes of “Unity” suggests that Serenity might be more in the style of White Clouds Drift On And On, which Van Wey issued under his birth name on Echospace in 2009. But halfway through its eleven-minute ride, beats come charging in, and suddenly we find ourselves transplanted into the center of an uplifting realm of trance music. The music even grows—dare one say it—funky, when a lovely bass pulse enters in to push the music to an even more rapturous pitch. “Energy,” by contrast, emerges in its opening moments as a towering mass of vocal loops, drums, and haze and then uses much of its thirteen minutes to surge ever more ecstatically upwards until a graceful decompression eases us back to terra firma. Epic too is “Strength,” which weds an hypnotic, Eastern-styled vocal chant to a lumbering funk groove until a glorious sequence of vocal interplay takes over, with the female voice's “Over and over” a direct correlate to the entrancing repetition of the now beatless music. As evidence of just how different the album is from other bvdub recordings, “Love” includes a female vocalist singing lyrics, of all things, even if her words of encouragement and positivity are presented as reverberant swirls. In truth, the album captures bvdub sounding less serene than elated; it's also bvdub at its most maximal with Van Wey building each track into a multi-layered colossus of incredible density.