Patient composition meets patient listening in the world of prolific artist bvdub, whose latest album features only four tracks, each approximately twenty minutes long and covering an entire side of magenta and yellow vinyl. As the word gliding seems a perfect match for the artist’s music, it’s only fitting that the musical term has been added to the new release as well, resulting in a slightly rougher texture, as if something shiny and new had become scuffed and slightly scarred.
Another way to describe Brock Van Wey’s music is to say that it sounds like a bank of clouds crossing over another bank of clouds, crossing over another bank of clouds, occasionally lining up to permit the sunshine to emerge. This seldom happens in real life (that’s a lot of clouds), but it seems apparent in the cover image, and even on the vinyl itself. The first such moment arrives eleven minutes into “Divinity at Dusk,” when for a few precious seconds only one pattern is heard. In “Scarlet in Mourning,” the strings take over at 14:45. Each track bears at least one such sequence as the skies clear, prompting a spiritual epiphany.
Returning to time-stretched vocal samples after a foray into the fully instrumental, bvdub uses vocal contrails that cut through the walls of sound. Sometimes one must strain to hear the words, while other times they seep to the surface. When they are clear, they can make or break the song, depending on the reception of the listener. “I’ve been looking for you” is a general sentiment, easy to relate to across the board. Closer “Northern Stars in Jade” is the most poignant, containing the couplet “Don’t fade away / I’ve made mistakes.” In normal times, one might associate these lines with the end of a relationship, but in pandemic times, they become a universal lament.
As many albums get lost in the winter holidays, we also want to mention Measures of a Greater Mercy, which was released in late November as a fundraiser for the American Society for Suicide Prevention. The curious story behind this album is that it was rejected by many labels, including the one that requested it, for no good reason that we can hear. The album is grittier than Violet Opposition, but just as melodic; and the title track is one of the artist’s best. bvdub straddles the line between melancholy and hope, but as long as he’s living, he’s winning. From this humble encouragement his listeners may begin to feel the same. (Richard Allen)