Anyone who's endured the death of a pet knows the depths of grief the experience engenders, and Brock Van Wey's latest bvdub release shows no different in that regard. Last year, Tanto, his “feline brother-in-arms” passed away from Feline Infections Peritonitis (FIP), a devastating and nearly always fatal disease for which there's yet no cure, and the traumatic event prompted Van Wey to not only resurrect his Quietus imprint for the project's release but to honour Tanto's life by approaching the album as Van Wey's first ‘live' album: each track was executed in one take, one per day over a six-day span.
Though Van Wey might have drawn on feelings of despair for the material, Tanto, like others in his bvdub discography, runs the emotional gamut from sadness and pain to joy and ecstasy. It's as much catharsis as celebration plus a way for Van Wey to honour the memory of one held so dear. While his bvdub music is always suffused with emotional intensity, Tanto registers even more powerfully when the background context is factored in, and the depth of feeling that permeates a track such as “I Break All Around You” is palpable.
Van Wey's appetite for long-form settings is once again present, as five of the pieces push beyond the ten-minute mark. A given setting advances through episodes of contrasting character, and it's not unusual for a plaintive passage to be followed by one that's anthemic. Multiple layers of mournful vocal supplications appear in intricate, call-and-response formations within hazy soundscapes dotted with guitars (acoustic and electric), keyboards, and downtempo, hip-hop-inflected beat patterns (one exception: “And I Want to Be as Strong as You,” which is powered by a beatbox-styled groove). His music is as entrancing as always: the proto-trance epic “You Tell Me to Be Strong” incrementally layers voices and beats until the swelling mass reaches a mesmerizing pitch, and “I Pray to a Godless Sky” is grounded by the loveliest of swoon-inducing piano melodies.
As it turns out, the ‘live' aspect of the recording is a bit of a non-issue, as the Tanto material exemplifies no markedly discernible difference from his other bvdub recordings. There's always an immediacy to Van Wey's productions, and the new release is consistent with that. To honour Tanto, Van Wey has pledged to donate all profits generated by the album to the UC Davis Center for FIP Research “in the hopes that even one life, one brother or sister, one innocent cat can be spared the horror of this cruel disease.” Vintage bvdub, Tanto is a heartfelt tribute that honours his beloved friend's memory in a most affecting manner.