There’s a lot of atmosphere on Threads, Jason van Wyk’s fourth full-length album. It’s a noticeable element that runs throughout the record’s duration, far more than on his previous albums. On every track, the composition and arrangement of the music benefit from this extra dimension, whether it be the thoughtful use of field recordings or the subtle underpinning of digital crackle.
It is another enthralling instalment on van Wyk’s musical journey from a producer behind trance and club anthems (as a teenager if his date of birth is correctly listed on Wikipedia). He had embraced the world of ambient music by the time he made his debut album in 2013, gradually developing a neo-classical approach, with additional violin and cello. Since then, he has moved into soundtrack work – the understandable route for any musician faced with living off streaming royalties – and it has been four years since Opacity.
The time in between has been spent well and Threads is a distinct progression from the previous albums. There are a couple of piano-centred works here (such as “Light Burns Out”), but the instrument is lost in a hubbub of ambient chatter rather than lovingly caressed by a string trio. There are moments when a beat kicks in; on “Partial Dawn”, an unexpected kick drum threatens to dominate the production but soon withdraws. Since the heady days of trance, van Wyk has presumably kept the drum machine on a shelf to gather dust, bringing it out for special occasions but otherwise settling for a much more delicate touch with rhythm.
The cover image of the moon shining over a fence positions the album as nocturnal listening, but often the music feels more urban than rural. That field recording might be the crackle of a communal fire on the beach, but more probably, it could be an abandoned warehouse burning on an industrial estate. It’s possibly a coincidence that the closing track “Near Dark” shares a title with a track on Untrue, but Threads is, to these ears, far more Burial than bucolic, more Porter Ricks than pastoral. Van Wyk has left behind his prettier compositions for now and gone for a more sinewy approach on Threads which suits the overall feeling of 2021. This isn’t a comforting listen – it’s the grimier end of ambient music, thriving off crackles and clunks, of surface noise and street lights. (Jeremy Bye)