Bvdub : a step in the dark Maximize

Bvdub : a step in the dark

  • AY
  • Release year 2016
  • 7 tracks, 76 minutes
  • CD in gatefold card cover.

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15,90 €

It’s been a relatively slow year for bvdub, aka Brock Van Wey. A Step in the Dark is his first album of 2015, after four in 2014 and dozens more since his debut in 2007. The relative slowdown in his output may be because he was moving halfway around the world, back to his native California after more than a decade in China.The relocation does not seem to have had much effect on Van Wey’s music. A Step in the Dark follows a template that is common to much of bvdub’s extensive catalog. Fans should be quite happy with it, but it’s unlikely to make many new converts.Van Wey makes electronic music that is vast, expansive, deep, cerebral, and emotional. It is often very pretty, but that beauty is offset by certain tendencies and habits. Aside from the closing coda, each of these six tracks clocks in at between 12 and 15 minutes.Things start out with some downcast, doomy synth chords, building to a beautiful swell of sound. On “My Cold Summer Heart”, a gentle melody is picked out by what sounds like a treated guitar, while “The Bigger They Love, the Harder They Fall” is ushered in by delicate piano. Gradually, things become awash in layers of synth pads and reverb, at which point a terse house rhythm nearly breaks the spell. The rhythm lasts for a while before disappearing, as the track is left to wind down to a pretty, atmospheric conclusion.This progression is repeated throughout A Step in the Dark. On “Broken Bridges” and “Alone Again”, the template is flipped around, so the tracks begin with electronic rhythms and cool down somewhere in the middle. Either way, the music is in line with bvdub’s unique, well-defined sound. The overall effect conjures images of falling into a deep chasm, one that delivers comfort and confinement in near equal measure.More difficult to come to grips with are the vocals. They are typically unintelligible, and Van Wey treats his voice, or a sampled voice, so that it is deep and slurred, sounding exactly like a record played at half-speed. The result is really more off-putting than disturbing or profound. Maybe this pretty/ugly dichotomy is exactly the point Van Wey is trying to foreground, but if that’s the case, to what end is he doing so? The added female vocals are more tonal if not comforting.Do the vocals ultimately add to or detract from A Step in the Dark? The answer lies in whether one prefers the cyclical, pulsing rhythm of “The Bigger They Love, the Harder They Fall” with or without heavily-reverbed wailing in the background. Maybe there is a more soulful aspect of all the emoting, but too often it comes across as a more strange version of the ‘90s “ambient pop” act Enigma.Van Wey clearly knows how he wants his music to sound, and has honed his craft to the point where it comes out sounding exactly that way. A Step in the Dark offers all the beauty and turmoil one has come to expect from bvdub. ( Review by John Bergstrom/POPMATTERS)