bvdub: I Remember (translations of ‘Mørketid')
Brock Van Wey's contribution to Alessandro Tedeschi's Glacial Movements imprint is interesting on many levels, starting with the background details for the recording. For I Remember—though its wistful title is very much in keeping with other bvdub titles—isn't an original collection in the strict sense but rather Van Wey's sonic response to an invitation Tedeschi extended to him in 2010, namely to create a “translation” of the Mørketid album that was issued in 2007 under his Netherworld alias. Van Wey emphasizes that the resultant collection is, properly speaking, a translation as opposed to remixes, and in this regard he's entirely accurate. The result is suffused to the fullest degree with the spirit and stylistic personality of bvdub, that is, an epic form of slow-motion ambient that's permeated by longing. In this instance, Tedeschi's music has acted as a catalyst that has enabled an incredible collection of bvdub music to come into being, the irony being that this collaborative process has allowed bvdub music of the utmost purity to be born.
That the material was written and produced by bvdub in Shaoxing, China is more than a production detail. Van Wey himself describes how his adopted home constantly reminds him of the unrealized dreams of its people and the need we all have to be heard and feel connected to others. Even so, a single listen shows that I Remember, no matter its reflective character, is anything but wallflower music. The epic pitch that “This Place Has Only Known Sadness,” for example, reaches during its last quarter verges on deafening, and a similarly grandiose attack informs some of the other material, too. In fact, the towering masses of “The Promise (reprise)” work themselves into such a wall-of-sound lather, it might be more accurate to characterize the piece as beatless shoegaze rather than ambient. All of the tracks but one (the aggressive, synth-heavy closer “A Taste of Your Own Medicine”) are longer than thirteen minutes, and consequently most settings build slowly, their reverberant layers of vaporous washes and muffled melodic figures accumulating incrementally until climaxes are reached. Sometimes a single instrument (such as piano during “Would it Be the Same” and acoustic guitar during “There Was Nothing but Beauty in My Heart”) acts as the nucleus around which the other elements constellate, and in some cases a beat pattern pushes its way to the forefront, as happens during “We Said Forever.”
A few associations emerge as one listens to the recording. The opening three minutes of “Would It Be The Same” have a gauzy quality that suggests bvdub has more in common with Popol Vuh than any of his ambient contemporaries (though that connection collapses the moment beat patterns, first a skittish, Murcof-like beat and then a slower funk pulse, unexpectedly appear). And while I appreciate that it might sound overblown to draw an association between bvdub's music and the Sirens of Homer's The Odyssey, the association nevertheless declares itself in isolated moments, in particular during “There Was Nothing but Beauty in My Heart” when the caressing murmur of wordless female voices appears. Recall that Odysseus ordered his men to tie him to the ship's mast when they passed the Sirens' island, so that he'd still be able to hear their bewitching voices without being drawn to the island and having his ship smash against the rocks, as had been the fate of others before him. In its own way, Van Wey's music bewitches too.