yadayn: Adem
Navalorama Records

Hailing from Ghent, Belgium, Gowaart Van Den Bossche creates music under the name yadayn, an Arabic word meaning ‘two hands'; it's a fitting choice in that pretty much every sound on Adem (Dutch for ‘breath'), his fourth release since 2014, was produced by the artist alone, its settings grounded in guitar playing (acoustic and electric) though ukulele and a few other sounds are also present. Stylistically, while his music includes electronic and ambient soundscaping elements, it's folk and neoclassical that dominate, even if the various strands are melded indissolubly at any one time, and the forty-minute album (available in a limited edition of 150 hand-assembled CDs) is at its best when his impressive fingerpicking is at the forefront. Conceived as a continuous journey, the six tracks were self-recorded at various locations, one at his grandmother's house (“Zee”), one at his own home (“Adem”), and the rest at a decommissioned telephone exchange building, a large hall with very spacious reverb, in his native town of Halle.

Ukulele is actually the first sound heard on the album, though guitar eventually emerges during “Hoor” to expand on the presentation and deepen the tune's contemplative quality; it's somewhat of a two-part affair, however, that midway through morphs into an electric guitar-led drone meditation. Though “Hoor” is a satisfying enough scene-setter, it's bettered by one of the album's strongest pieces, “Ruimte,” which sprinkles hushed male-and-female utterances (Eveline De Reu the female) across an entrancing 6/8 lilt. The title track and “Tijd” sparkle too, in these cases when Van Den Bossche's picking generates multi-layered spirals that dazzle and soothe in equal measure.

Minimal statements relaxedly delivered on acoustic guitar give “Zee” the feeling of a becalmed folk reverie until, that is, the pace picks up and yadayn's picking skills get a workout. The album's tracks tend to change shape often and “Zee” is no exception: following that fingerpicking sequence, the piece evolves into a blurry swirl of treated guitar textures. As one might expect, the fifteen-minute “Tijd” also evidences that transmutational tendency, with the setting advancing through solo picking passages of varying character and tempo, some snail-paced and others rushing with the insistent locomotion of a train; the urgency with which “Tijd” scales its mountains makes for some of the album's most engrossing moments. It's telling that, a multi-layered coda aside, the piece features little else than Van Den Bossche on acoustic, a reminder once more that the simplest of arrangements can captivate when the material in play is as rich in imagination and melody as it is here.

July 2017