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Bvdub: The Art of Dying Alone

img  Tobias Fischer

The tranquil soundscapes  of his current oeuvre may occasionally suggest otherwise, but change rather than consistency has been the most important factor in the life of Brock van Wey. Classically trained on the Piano and Violin as a boy, he quickly found himself in want of more radical forms of expression. Death-Metal, with its unfiltered aggression and furious power, turned into a first focus. It was soon to be replaced by the overwhelming sense of community and uplifting energy found in the Deep House and Trance scene. In 2001, however, disgusted by the downward spiral of all but everything that had attracted him to it in the first place, van Wey chucked in his job as a DJ, sold his entire record collection and moved to China.

It was the spontaneous realisation of a life-long fascination for a country that had always seemed to him the one place on earth which could offer him peace of mind. His plan didn't turn out to be quite as healing as expected. But it did allow him to step back from what happened, re-start his life from scratch and discover the things that truly meant something to him. Needless to say, music was still among them. The subsequent founding of his Quietus-imprint, the genesis of his bdvub-project as well as the increasingly prolific string of releases under that moniker all point to a man emerging from the void with newly found passion and will. If van Wey should now deal with the „art of dying“ at a point in time when his second coming is in full bloom, then this is merely the logical conclusion of continuous strife for a right way to live.

In a sense, too, „The Art of Dying Alone“ is the organic culmination of a work  forever spiralling around themes of isolation, the strength found in solitude and the eternal riddle of „where to now“. Van Wey knows there is no clear-cut rational answer to these questions, but by returning to them again and again, he is circling a spiritual truth offering inner calm and consolation. This constant mulling-over of the same issues may also explain the compositional processes at the heart of the album: Minimal loops, mostly comprising of a short melodic or rhythmical statement, gradually grow into dense textures washed over by wave after wave of soft electronic pads and choral voices, until their underlying sense of motion is all but canceled out.

Slowly but surely, the listener's attention is directed from thematic spikes to the inner development of a piece and the delicate interaction between its different layers: Call-and-response patterns, subtle shifts in loop-structure, the appearance and dying-down of tiny acoustic elements, ghost melodies created by the overlap of two adjacent textures. Time, as a medium through which the music flows with utmost grace and patience, is left to do most of the work and it is paradoxically by taking elements away rather than adding some, that climaxes are achieved: A momentous epiphany occurs towards the end of „No More Reason Not to Fall“, when van Wey suddenly silences the main voices, leaving his audience with nothing but a trace of rhythm and the beguiling cobweb of sustained tones underneath, hypnotically closing out the track with several minutes of torrential sweetness.

The pointed simplicity of these structures is belied by the unerringly precise arrangements, which act as a summary of van Wey's long and winding musical path. Most notably, as with previous allusions to his classical background, he has organised „The Art of Dying Alone“ as a tone-poem-like, almost 80-minute-long epic for an electroacoustic chamber music ensemble composed of guitar, piano, vocals and strings, whose tendency towards timbral coherency and warmth lends the album an air of both solemn and sensuous concentration. At the same time, there are references to his involvement with dance and house. „To Finally Forget it All“ could just as well be a trance-tune slowed down to the pulse-rate of a dreamer, the four-to-the-floor bass drum turning into a poetic heartbeat. A triangle of influences is thus manifesting itself around the axis of Contemporary Composition, Ambient and Electronica, held together by the gravitational force of a twin-peaked tension-arch: Even though aforementioned „To Finally Forget it All“ seemed to have brought things to resolution at around half time, van Wey arrives at the conclusion that the journey isn't over yet. For a full forty more minutes, he dives back into the ocean of oblivion, this time finally finding consolation at the shores of the closing title track.

Whether or not, as a listener, you'll derive the same kind of appeasement from the experience depends greatly on your involvement. A lot here is communicated between the lines, transmitted in morse code which requires active participation to be deciphered. Beauty, in the sense of a focus on mere aesthetics, does not seem to be of any relevance. On the contrary, those looking underneath the surface will find that the album consciously plays with motivic ruptures, just as steady lines are constantly broken apart into stuttering, skipping and asymmetrical repetitions. Life doesn't move with picture-perfect precision, van Wey seems to say, and meaning is not something you're given for free. His unconventional CV awards him some natural authority in these matters, but at heart, the message of „The Art of Dying Alone“ is one of universal applicability in these complex times: In a life that eschews rationale logic, constant change really is the only way to attain some form of consistency.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Bvdub
Homepage: Bvdub at MySpace
Homepage: Glacial Movements Records

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