bvdub: All is Forgiven
Brock Van Wey's latest addition to his ever-growing bvdub discography shows just how much a work-in-progress the project continues to be. Not too many years ago, a bvdub release would have featured ambient settings of retiring character and minimalist design. All Is Forgiven, by comparison, might be the most expansive and epic recording yet from the Shaoxing, China-based Van Wey. Yes, there are connecting threads from one recording to the next—his affinity for long-form tracks is again evident, with the album's seventy-five minutes given over to three ultra-gauzy tracks only, and the emotional intensity is pitched as high as it's ever been—but also differences, a more energized and extroverted spirit foremost among them. In the past, it was hard to reconcile the deep ambient style of bvdub with the fact that during the late ‘80s-early ‘90s in his native San Francisco Van Wey had DJed as part of an underground rave scene. Listening to the sometimes beat-centric All Is Forgiven, such a detail becomes easier to fathom.
Little time passes before the title track is unspooling in all its epic glory, a hazy cocktail of downtempo beats, soulful vocal ululations, and ethereal atmospheres that segues seamlessly from one episode to another. In this case, the beats drop out, ceding the stage to piano and vocals—all the better to monitor the ebb-and-flow of the vocal layers—until the beats re-appear in punchier form to give the music a funkier quality one might not have previously associated with bvdub music. The mournful tone so characteristic of Van Wey's music is never far away, as the title track's coda makes clear, and the elegant piano intros to “Today He Felt Life” and “Peonies Fall for Kings” also show that his ability to produce moments of stirring beauty hasn't left him either. On the middle track, “Today He Felt Life,” Van Wey takes the listener on a heady, thirty-minute tour through varying locales, some string-drenched and vocal-heavy and others beat-driven, while “Peonies Fall for Kings” courts splendour in its haunting weaves of soulful vocals (male and female), strings, and piano. Multiple genres seep to the album's surface, ambient and dub, naturally, but also deep house, though less on stylistic grounds and more in terms of sensibility, with the ecstatic quality of bvdub's music the tie between them. Van Wey's use of loops also amplifies the material's hypnotic impact, especially when they're woven into swirling, multi-layered multitudes. In a word, it's incredible stuff, as potent as anything we've heard before from Van Wey.