Brock Van Wey – as you probably know – is a prolific producer of dubby, ambient music as bvdub, with a bunch of lengthy albums crafted over the last twelve years. A Strangely Isolated Place – again, as you probably know – is a website devoted to ambient music that has gradually progressed from hosting mixes through to digital compilations up to the point now where they are releasing albums as an honest-to-goodness label that focuses mostly on vinyl. After what sounds like years of what might be called friendly persuasion, which may have risen up a notch or two to persistent begging from the label, Van Wey has agreed to release an album with them. Ambient producer meets ambient label – sounds like a marriage made in heaven, right? Where do we post the RSVPs?
Well, hold on one minute, because either because Van Wey was feeling led in a different direction by the muse, or he wanted to defy expectations – or, third option – he was just in a contrary mood one morning, he has gone for an album that has been billed as a little different to what we might have expected. The first clue is the artist name adopted for the release. There’s more to Brock’s back catalogue than just ambient dub and he has recorded under a couple of other names in the past; Earth House Hold is the one that is generally reserved for ‘deep house’ (his words). It was, by all accounts, a surprise to ASIP when he told them he was dusting down the old recording ID for this new album.
This is where it gets a little complicated because although the first EHH album, When Love Lived could reasonably fit under the umbrella of deep house (the proper stuff, not the tunes that end up on a Ministry Of Sound Deep House compilation), the excellent Never Forget Us is actually much closer to bvdub. Sure, there are splashy drums in places, and the BPM count has been nudged upward a little in places (from glacial to funereal) but it’s really, deep down, an ambient dub album but with added layers of percussion and an array of samples of what sounds like obscure early 90s R&B vocals. So the result is closer to the work of Burial but with a little less of the oppressive late-night urban atmosphere, and a brighter, arguably more optimistic feel.
It’s over half-way through the second track that a kick drum finally makes its appearance though, so there is no way you would confuse this Earth House Hold as anything remotely house-y. The opener sets the album’s stall out with a slow pulse which allows Van Wey to do what he does best – create those atmospheric, dubby tracks that reveal themselves gradually over a generous running time. When a busier percussion arrangement is introduced on “Only Suns Rise”, which is already on the LP’s second side, there is no sense of urgency; you can pretend it’s just the chirupping of cicadas outside, and stick with the rest of the instrumentation which is content to move at a steady pace. Eventually, of course, Van Wey reverts to the drumless space that he seems happiest with.
There’s much to enjoy with Never Forget Us, particularly the way it is sequenced, gradually nudging the tempo upwards and bringing more recognisable elements from house before slowing down towards the end. As you will have noticed, nearly everything about this album is a gradual process, and these new elements don’t hang about for too long – just enough to make an impression before disappearing into the background again. It’s a perfect morning after album – the music will not only remind you of last night in a delicate manner but will gently ease you back into some semblance of normality. It’s too slow for the disco, but perfect for the recovery. (Jeremy Bye)