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Bvdub - Tribes at the Temple of Silence


Home Normal

Brock Van Wey has come in for criticism before on this site and it was with trepidation that I approached his new release for Home Normal, a label that I have a lot of time for. Since his appearance back in 2007, Van Wey has chalked up no less than 7 or 8 albums, a terrific return for such a short period of time. However, most of his work tends to concentrate on padding out an entire CD span with ambient noise and sound, rather than any attempt at reductionism or brevity. As such, there’s a humdrum functionality to his music that denigrates it to a certain degree - we all admire minimalism for what you leave out, but often it’s knowing when to stop that separates the professionals from the amateurs. It’s intriguing to see that Van Wey has now moved to Shaoxing in China from San Francisco.

 “Tribes at the Temple of Silence”  is then surprising at least to start with as the opening track contains rhythm. “A Quiet Doorway Opens” starts with the expected haze of merging guitar drones and treated pianos, before some sped-up drums accentuate further layers of sound. Frustratingly, like other work there’s no climax in the musical sense - no change of drumbeat, no melodic amendments, just the same loop over and over again. I’m all for hypnotism, but the elements themselves at least have to provide some sort of audial catalyst, rather than the same loop bludgeoning you into submission. 

Thankfully, “The Past Disappears” restores my faith in Van Wey’s talents. This is more like the bvdub material, using subtle basslines that propel the track forward, giving at least a hint of progression. Similarly, “Sanctuary” has more complex samples that divide and separate before coalescing together again. But again, we’re 36 minutes into an album before anything of any true consequence seems to have happened. 

Just at the point when you feel that you’ve had enough, “Morning Rituals” provides some respite, with washes of sound circulating around the mix in a more dissonant and angular fashion. Whilst it’s not remarkably different from anything else on the album, it fits in with a loose sense of  narrative and this is where “Tribes” moves on up from some of his other material. It’s very much an album that is more than the sum of his parts, as the final two tracks provide a soothing epitaph to an album of meditative calm. Somehow just at the point when you feel that you’ve had enough, Van Wey finishes matters. 

It’s a functional ambient album though and leaves me no closer to deciding whether Van Wey is a true talent in this scene or someone else just making matters worse by releasing yet another ethereal album of sound washes. Whilst I won’t use this review to beat the genre over the head with a stick, it is perhaps indicative of ambient’s general malaise that the musical ambiguity (or lack of direction) pursued on most releases at the moment is doing it no good.


Reader Comments (1)

Personally I think it's all about context with BVW's music (like most music I guess).
Enjoy it at the right time and it can transport you places. Usually inwards, on an emotional, introspective trip.
His is music to make you feel so it does take require some investment from the listener, and it's definitely well worth the dive in, rather than just skimming the surface.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpetesrdic

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