January 28, 2011

Floodwatch can’t drive no jive 55.

One of my own personal genre tags goes something like, “early AM winter driving music” and for years I’ve made notes of records, regardless of the season, that fall under this umbrella. Past candidates have included the first few Autechre releases, Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra (1974), Laika’s Sounds of the Satellites (1997), and anything by Vladislav Delay: spacious, atmospheric, preferably electronic-based, and possessing an elusive undercurrent of frigidity. Recently I became acquainted with the sounds of San Francisco’s own Brock Van Wey, composer of a strain of ambient dub under the appropriately-christened moniker Bvdub.

His latest, Tribes at the Temple of Silence (2011), has been welcome company on my isolated drives home from the vampire shift over the past several weeks. Layering and blending are the methods of operation here: thick swashes of chords, skeletal drum loops, dense clusters of sine waves, echoing plinks of piano, all in a continuous, shifting rotation of alignment and disarray. Nothing is cast off into a pulse-less, freeform haze (which would be detrimental to its effectiveness as “driving music”); there is gravity on Bvdub’s desolated planet and a terrestrial repetition that belies the celestial, bell-like tones pinging through the mix.

I could complain about the lack of basslines on a few of the more rhythmic cuts here, but perhaps the absence of a grounded low end is what ensures the record’s stationary view to the heavens, like a telescope in the middle of the desert. I suppose one could engage in other activities with this music: maybe painting or riding the subway with headphones on, or sleeping in on a chilly Sunday morning. For me, it’s all rapid forward motion over concrete and painted yellow lines, illuminated by the glow of the dashboard and moonlit smears of cirrus clouds across a winter night sky. Who needs a daytime commute?

MP3: Bvdub-“A Quiet Doorway Opens”

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