BVDUB'S ALL-TIME TOP 10
After being thoroughly seduced by the deep ambient soundscaping of Brock Van Wey's double-disc opus, White Clouds Drift On And On, for Steve Hitchell's Echospace imprint, we contacted Van Wey hoping he might be willing to put a Top 10 together. Naturally we were delighted when he not only agreed but embraced the idea so enthusiastically. In all probability, we were lucky to catch him just prior to the Echospace project's formal release date, as he may find himself inundated in the weeks ahead with interview requests as word about the release spreads. As notable as the work is, however, it's not the only iron in Van Wey's fire. Over the past few years, he's issued material under both his birth name and the Bvdub alias on Quietus (which he also manages), Sytrax, Southern Outpost, and Million of Moments, and has contributed remixes to recent collections by kindred spirits Intrusion and Beat Pharmacy, among others. Van Wey's love for all kinds of music evidences itself clearly in the personalized words that follow.
Bvdub / Brock Van Wey: Throughout my entire life, music has been the most important thing in the world, and my complete obsession. In fact, my parents said even when I was born, all I would do was listen to music—literally—and would go into complete hysterics if it was turned off for even a second. I don't remember much about those days, but going into hysterics does sound like me, so I'm inclined to believe them.
Over my thirty-five years, countless songs and forms of music have had an immeasurable impact on my life, with the deepest and most profound coming in my last eighteen years with electronic music, which not surprisingly makes up the majority of my all-time Top 10, but a couple of other things snuck in there as well… because if there's anything I'm not, it's predictable. Actually that's the biggest lie ever told, but it sounded good. So here we go (in no particular order):
1. Fleetwood Mac: “Dreams” (Rumours, Warner Brothers, 1977)
Okay, so I was three when it came out, so it wasn't till a bit later that I really absorbed and appreciated it, but ever since I did, it's never stopped being one of my favourite songs in the history of the world. I don't know what it is—it says so many truths… it just breaks it down, you know? Music back then did that so much… it seemed like so much of it really spoke to exactly what people went through in everyday, real life. Don't get me wrong, drifting off into flights of fancy is great too, but sometimes it's nice to remember that you're not the only one who's living this life of ours.
On top of that, man, what a groove this track has—perfect for nodding and swaying any time of day. It's just one of those tracks that really exemplifies what bands during that time (especially Fleetwood Mac) were able to achieve in their ability to make something mellow yet danceable at the same time. “Dreams” just plain never ceases to be genius.
2. Joi + Jorio: “I Won't Waste Your Time” (I Won't Waste Your Time, Tribal America, 1993)
In my opinion, hands-down the best vocal house record ever made. This track introduced me to just how deep and beautiful vocal house could be. It is, quite simply, everything deep, beautiful, meaningful, and utterly timeless there is about real deep vocal house wrapped into a single track. Not only that, it's the prime example of what made deep house from the early ‘90s so amazing—it meant something. It told a story that we all could relate too—lost or found love, infatuation or heartbreak, hope or sadness—deep house from those times was a chronicle of all those things and more, and was full of the stories we all had lived and could relate to, for better or worse.
For me, “I Won't Waste Your Time” holds a special place in my heart as well because it conveys everything I wish love could be, and the kind of love I've never known, but always wanted. It speaks to so many parts of my heart, on so many levels, it's hard to put it into words. But that's what music did then… it didn't just assault you with pointless empty commands to “get on the dancefloor,” “put your hands up,” or whatever empty slogan someone can muster… it told the stories of our lives, as we all gathered together to celebrate the beauty of music, and relate to the music, and to one another. It doesn't get more beautiful than that, and it doesn't get any better than this track.
3. Ron & Chez D: “A1” (KMS 054) (Untitled, KMS, 1994)
I think nearly anyone with a pulse who was listening to house music in the ‘90s would be hard-pressed not to say at least one of their all-time faves is by the immortal duo of Ron Trent and Chez Damier. These guys had an impact and effect on house and underground dance music that will live forever. For me, “A1” on KMS 054 is the one, and though I love countless tracks they put their Midas touch to, this one is and always has been my absolute favorite of theirs, though over the years, it's always been a bit of an unsung hero it seems.
Once again, deep house from the early half of the ‘90s breaks down the ups and downs we all go through and lets us know we're not alone while providing a groove that can make you dance ‘till 10 in the morning, even stone-cold sober. This is the kind of track that would come on in the middle of a set, when you've already been groovin' for hours, when you've been on autopilot since you last remember, and would just make you say, “daaaamn,” as you remember what it's all about, and ride that second wind. It's got it all —a ridiculously addictive groove, a bass line that's deep house personified, and vocals that somehow manage to be so real, so down-to-earth, yet somehow slightly weird at the same time (from Ron and Chez? Never!). Fifteen years later, I can still listen to this track five times a day and love it as much as ever.
4. CJ Bolland: “Camargue” (Camargue, 1993, R&S)
If anyone ever asks me my favorite techno record of all time, the answer invariably is “Camargue.” All I have to do is hear two seconds of those opening chords, and it's all over—I'm lost in every hope and dream I had for electronic music since I first heard those same chords drop on a massive stack of speakers at six in the morning in 1993.
For me, “Camargue” embodies not only the sound that to me was everything that was beautiful, driving, groovin', and mind-blowing about techno, but also so much about the scene, and the hopes and dreams I had wholeheartedly flung into it as I pledged my allegiance to it for life. It's also a perfect example of how music then wasn't so separatist and elitist, and was often a beautiful melding of house, techno, and whatever else the artist was feeling. “Camargue” in parts could almost as easily be hard house as it could be techno (if you disagree CJ, forgive me) and, at the time, it was a record played constantly by trance DJs as well. It simply was what it was, and what it was and always will be is a timeless example of the incredible drive forward for techno and electronic music at the time—sixteen years ago—it blows my mind to know it was that long ago.
5. Johnny Vicious: “Believe This” (Frozen Bass Volume 1, Vicious Muzik, 1993)
This track was, quite simply, the reason I went to raves for at least a year. My god, what a track—especially when you've heard it pounding on a massive sound system in a warehouse break-in surrounded by thousands of people. It's a memory that's still as clear to me today as it was when it first happened sixteen years ago. It was also my introduction to this kind of house: with that pounding kick, deep tough bass line, tribal rhythms, a kind of dark aura, almost ominous bells, and, most importantly, that repetitive vocal loop that just kept driving and driving until you didn't think you could take it anymore, but never wanted it to stop. I've literally seen a party turn into what looked like Thunderdome with this track pounding out of stacks of subs… with throngs of people undulating in time with an intensity I can't describe… and people so amped up, into it, and literally hanging off speakers, balconies, and stairwells, that they looked like a ravenous crowd in the old days of the Roman Coliseum—in a good way of course.
This is a track that you have to hear insanely loud on a system—which was how most of us heard every track back then, since you pretty much had to go out to hear dance music. “Believe This” not only set off a lifetime appreciation for the beauty and power of looping, repetitive dance music and the way it can make your body inexplicably move, but of all the tracks that bring my rave days flooding back in a nearly unbearable torrent every time I hear it, this is it. I've played it for people who weren't around then for those days, and to be honest, most of them don't think it's all that great. But, man, if you were there to hear it dropped on a system that would practically break your bones if you stood too close, and were there to be a part of the underground revolution that was the rave scene in those days, you understand. And you remember.
6. Steve Roach: “Structures from Silence” (Fortuna, 1984)
This was probably not the first ambient track I ever heard (and it's the last song on the album, so how could it be?), but Steve Roach's album Structures from Silence was what started it all for me, and what caused my love affair with ambient that has continued undeterred to this day. The whole album is amazing, but the title track was the first piece of music I had ever heard in my life that made me physically speak to the music in response. I still remember nodding and saying “yes,” “totally,” and “so true,” out loud, as I literally forgot I was listening to music playing through an inanimate object, and not having a conversation with some kind of being that simply knew and saw all. I know, it sounds like some weird hippie nonsense, but it's true.
Steve Roach wasn't the first person ever to make ambient… but he was, in my opinion, the first to set it on the road to what it has been for the last fifteen years… and since then, he's been the best. No one had ever made anything like “Structures from Silence” before, and frankly, they never have again. It sounds as good or better now as it ever did, and if that doesn't tell you what a genius Steve Roach is and always has been, I don't know what does. In my book, “Structures from Silence” was the first ambient track to take things to such a level of quiet intensity that you were unable to do anything else but listen, even to a track with no beats. For me this track paved the way for so many drone and pad-driven ambient pieces that followed, I don't even think a supercomputer can count that high. A thing of unbelievable beauty that is truly beyond compare.
7. Sade: “Like a Tattoo” (Love Deluxe, Epic, 1992)
If you ask me who my favourite overall artist of all-time is, regardless of genre, it's Sade. Without question. It's no accident that I own two copies of everything she's ever recorded, because if something happened to one of them and I was left without the ability to go to it when I needed it, even for a few days, I would probably jump off the roof. Since discovering her music in 1991, it's pretty much been my barometer for judging whether or not I can even talk to someone. “Do you like Sade?” If the answer is no, we really have nowhere to go from there. Hell, I even spurned a girl I was ridiculously into once, when she said she didn't like Sade. Game over.
It's extremely hard to pick only one as my all-time favorite. I was tempted to go in a number of directions, as quite honestly nearly every single one of her songs are my favourites for different reasons, but there's always been something about “Like a Tattoo” that for me sets it slightly apart from the others. I think it's that every other Sade song makes me want to hear another… but “Like a Tattoo” is like the final word, like the last song of a long journey—it just feels like there's nothing left to say after that. I can't really explain why, there's just something about it. It's so sad, so aching, and full of unfulfilled hope, and so quietly beautiful all at the same time, there's always been something about it that just says it all for me when it comes to Sade.
Ever since I first came across her music in 1991 or so, it has been the single-most grounding force in my life. When I said earlier that I needed it, I wasn't kidding. Hers is the only music that can bring me back down to earth no matter what's going on, and can center me in an instant no matter how far I veer off course. It's been a best friend, a faithful confidant, and a gentle shoulder to cry on for nearly two decades now, and it always will be.
8. Björk: “Unison” (Vespertine, Elektra, 2001)
Ahh, man, Björk. So much has been said about her over time, and so many people usually adopt a very strong opinion one way or another. Strangely enough, I was one of the ones who said I couldn't stand her music until probably about 2000 or so. What on earth I was thinking, I have no idea. Once it clicked, I realized she is the owner of one of the most magical and mind-blowing voices of time, and responsible for some of the most amazing and important tracks of all modern day. Don't get me wrong—with her it's pretty much all one way or another—either a track is the most amazing thing ever made, or… well it's all the way at the other end. “Unison” to me is the prime example of the former (and just for the record, “Undo” is up there pretty much neck-and-neck). No one but Björk could even come close to pulling that off – nor would they even try. Every single thing about this song is perfection personified—from the way it ebbs and flows, to her magical solo vocals, to the instrumentation, and the way she harmonizes it all with an amazing choral section. It is the embodiment of how music, even in a fairly simple, “less is more” way, can be unbelievably powerful beyond any other medium.
For years I've seen people online say she doesn't know how to sing. Not only are those people quite frankly complete idiots, but they've obviously never seen the video of her performing “Unison” at the Royal Opera House in London, which is pretty much the most intensely beautiful live performance of music I've ever seen in my life (and on top of that, it's even better than the studio recording… much better, in fact. How many people can pull that off?). If you see that and still think she can't sing, you should just stop listening to music. Because it's the embodiment of how beautiful, and how powerful, music can be.
9. The Outsiders: “Do Dat Scat” (Signal Hill/ The Outsiders: Release It / Do Dat Scat, Tribal America, 1995)
For me, though there have been many contenders for best deep house label of all time, and there have been amazing records over time on a ton of them (Nervous, Bottom Line, Strictly Rhythm, Emotive, Deep Dish, the list goes on) pound for pound, you just can't beat Tribal America, and before they called it a day way back when, I had just about every record that had ever gone out their doors.
Though I love so many of them, for me “Do Dat Scat” has just always been “that one.” It's one of those tracks that I think a ton of people overlooked, and one I literally never heard played anywhere. Ever. But, man, what a track. If ever there was a perfect example of what “deep house” was before it became the bastardized, watered-down version it's taken on in the last ten-plus years, this is it (especially since 1995 was right on the precipice of when it all went downhill). Just a beautiful, deep, almost sadly-tinged groove that carries you straight into the early morning hours, where deep house always shined.
Don't get me wrong—there are a lot of other deep house records that are also deep house personified (before I get some angry email from someone), and this was far from the first, or most seminal deep house record on the planet. But something about the gentle, unassuming, just straight up real vibe it had, and still has in full fourteen years later (wow, I feel old), just gets me every time. And it never ceases to bring me straight back to those hope-filled days when we all thought deep house would rule the world—times that will forever mean everything to me.
10. Kelvin: “Night and Day” (Night and Day, Wonka Beats, 1993)
Now I'm not trying to act all “I'm so underground and different” about it, but I would be shocked if this record was on anyone's all-time top 10—not because it doesn't deserve it, but because it, like many records over the years, was another of those unsung heroes that people probably felt like crazy some time when it was played at a party they were at, but was never ostentatious enough to become a landmark hit or something that people sought out like their life depended on it (well I did, but I'm not usually a good benchmark for normality).
Wonka Beats was one of those labels that nearly everyone had seen (even now, their slipmats are ubiquitous throughout countless DJ setups in bars and clubs, even though hardly anyone now knows it was even a label) or heard of, but few people ever actually listened to or bought—at least here in San Francisco—which was a shame, because while they had some not-so-great records along the way, they had some amazing ones that forever drifted under the radar, and never got the attention they deserved. For me, Night and Day is not only the number one example of such a phenomenon but is also an example of a just plain amazing, deep, vibe-drenched record. Even when it came out, not a single record on the planet sounded like it, and that has remained true to this day.
I only knew one person who ever even played it out, a deep trance DJ here in San Francisco who was known for playing records no one had ever even heard of, much less heard (which was how I heard it in the first place), and the second I heard it for the first time I was blown away. It was like being carried away to a tropical island, while dancing in a warehouse at 7am as sun filtered through the windows, while meditating on top of a mountain, all at the same time. It somehow managed to be danceable and moving while being incredibly relaxing and almost tranquilizing at the same time. I had never heard anything like it, and it opened my ears to a whole new world of music (one which pretty much just this one record inhabits).Actually, if I had to name one record that set me on the path that I've traveled for so many years to pretty much reach where I am now, through all my years as a deep trance and deep house DJ, to all the parties I threw that played nothing but the deepest music that everyone else said no one wanted to hear when they went out, to the gentle, unassuming sounds I myself make today, it's this. Something about it will always signify that side of electronic music that so many forget—the side that can be beautiful, gentle, and unassuming, but still unforgettable. I don't even know if I could call it any one thing really—it's not house, it's not techno, it's not trance—it just IS. If only people had retained that lack of worry about what music was going to be classified as, and just made what they felt, the world would be a very different place.