Brock Van Wey – White Clouds Drift On And On
Brock Van Wey took a headfirst leap off the end point of dub techno last year into the oceanic swells of ambient bliss on this first album under his given name. Instead of crashing into the waves and sinking, the man usually known as Bvdub simply took flight and never looked down. This is White Clouds Drift On And On.
Let’s start at the cover art; talk about evocative. That image, combined with the none-too-subtle title, sufficiently hints at the feelings unleashed by this album. Opening with a melodic beckon skyward, White Clouds eases the passage from the paces of reality into pure atmospheric headspace with it’s most concrete segment. Once at cruising altitude, that cover art truly delivers on its promise. Piano, synths, guitars and the hiss of soft spoken digital percussion are treated with gauzy abandon. Everything expands in all directions at once, infiltrating and taking over all sense of place and time. Vocals flit in and out of the mix and are seemingly heard before they appear, yet register only once they’ve gone. More than a quarter of an hour can slip away in the blink of an eye, with only the fleeting silence between tracks reminding of the outside world.
Each of the six excursions come on like a nagging thought, stealing focus away from whatever is at hand. Novel elements build upon the notion, expanding to fill the entire consciousness. The immediate surroundings completely dissolve and an internal journey has begun. Only the end of this album can now serve as the hand on my shoulder to shake me to attention. You know how this ends, like a transportive dream after waking. Something profound was felt, but the details are lost. Thankfully this transcendent experience is a tangible thing, available for replay as soon as the listener is ready.
Covering a strange land where the nations of Basic Channel and Quantec overlap with Arvo Pärt and Terry Riley, Van Wey departs heavily – but not unexpectedly – from his solidly minimal, dub techno background. Instead of moving laterally, he’s simply found a higher ground, and that deep foundation remains. Thus, fans of anything from Fennesz and Tim Hecker, Stars of the Lid and Windy & Carl, to Gas, Loscil, and Deepchord Presents Echospace, to The Caretaker, William Basinski, Black to Comm [see my take on Alphabet 1968] or even my recent favorites Oneohtrix Point Never [see my love here], need to pay special attention here. I wouldn’t go on a name-checking spree if it weren’t necessary, so here’s the deal: This album accentuates all that I love about these profoundly varying artists and their sounds, yet never succumbs to their respective gravities. It weaves between, above and below, insular in its movemnt and pulsing with a life all its own. I like the notion that when a dream is over, a whole world ends. That’s how this album feels, every time. I mean that in the best way possible.
One of the most unique aspects of this release is the presence of a second disc featuring a full album deconstruction by producer Intrusion (dub techno wizard Stephen Hitchell), mirroring the dream like a bent parallel universe. Keeping true to the ethos and atmosphere, the percussive dub feel is heightened to an almost head-nodding level while the billowing atmosphere is drenched in cavernous echo. Built on a descending order of the original six songs, this set brings us full circle by the end. It is truly a reflection, a perfect accomplice, urging the body to follow the mind.
Despite having since moved back to making records under his former moniker, his music shows no signs of reversing course. Bvdub‘s new album The Art Of Dying Alone, out on perfectly complimentary label Glacial Movements, is the obvious next step beyond White Clouds. In other words, keep up with the man. He’s conjuring something special.