Review: Bvdub - Serenity (2012)


bvdub_serenityartist: Bvdub
release: Serenity
format: CD
year of release: 2012
label: Darla
dur­a­tion: 76:53

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Hard work pays off. If any­one has shown that in the past few years, it has to be Brock Van Wey. He pro­duces sev­eral filled-to-the-brim ambi­ent albums every year, almost too many to really keep track of, but those of them which I’ve heard are all excel­lent. The only reason I didn’t put his I Remem­ber (trans­la­tions of ‘Mør­ketid’) – in which he used Neth­er­world’s Mør­ketid as base mater­ial – on last year’s best of 2011 ret­ro­spect­ive, is that I didn’t really start dig­ging into Bvdub since this year. Con­sider this a rec­ti­fic­a­tion.

Regard­less, for 2012, my focus fell on Serenitythe first 500 cop­ies of which came with a bonus album Don’t Say You Know, which really deserves a review onto itself, since it’s so much more than tacked-on col­lec­tion of tracks. It’s a proper album with its own sound and theme, that just happened to be pack­aged along with this one. I’ll ignore it for now, and focus on Serenity instead.

The usual Bvdub ele­ments make up the album, with a focus on thick, warm synth pads, waves, and melod­ies, the occa­sional fat bass, and samples of female vocals. Through­out Serenity, a laid-back 44 pace is kept, mostly with a simple beat, some­times just in the melod­ies and loops. As usual, he has no dif­fi­culties cre­at­ing an entran­cing flow that will keep you occu­pied for the almost eighty minutes that fill this CD, and that effect doesn’t really dimin­ish over repeated listens.

Des­pite the con­sist­ent flow of the album as a whole, I’d say “Beauty” is a truly out­stand­ing track, with some­thing really com­pel­ling about its beat and bass combo, as well as the inter­play of its two dom­in­ant vocal lines. The same goes for the almost beat­less and vocal-heavy inter­lude “Love”, and the fol­low­ing “Strength”. The lat­ter has a superb start with an oboe-like melody build­ing up into a steady track, but dares to shift gears halfway with some crash­ing bliss-out waves and strings intro­du­cing a lovely vocal wind-down.

Many of Bvdub’s pre­vi­ous are mel­an­choly affairs, but Serenity attempts to bring a little bright­ness and warmth. I think Van Wey’s approach here has to do with nos­tal­gia, which is a bit of a con­tro­ver­sial concept in recent years. We’ve seen so much of it, argu­ably too much, and a sig­ni­fic­ant seg­ment of today’s enter­tain­ment industry relies on it, for bet­ter or worse. Some­times, though, it man­ages to hit the right notes. Per­haps it’s a mat­ter of there being a per­sonal click or res­on­ance. In the case of this album, that might be it.

In the late nineties, Van Wey was a DJ in San Fran­cisco, while I was a little teen­age boy tap­ing tracks off the radio in my bed­room. What we prob­ably shared at the time was trance music and its care­free melod­ies and eth­er­eal vocals, con­jur­ing an atmo­sphere of love, peace, tran­quil­ity, serenity. Per­haps that was already nos­tal­gic in itself, a yearn­ing for yet another (ima­gined) era. Now, some fif­teen years later, those ele­ments can have the same poignancy. Filtered through Van Wey’s ambi­ent pro­duc­tion and com­pos­i­tion skills – obvi­ously more mature than  that involved in a lot of the music from back then – the trance and chil­lout styl­ist­ics don’t seem at all out of place in 2012.

Per­haps it’s the hon­esty as well that makes Van Wey’s nos­tal­gia so much more pal­at­able than most. He doesn’t hide it behind an arched eye­brow or a tongue-in-cheek; there’s no mask of irony to hide behind in case people ridicule your love for some­thing quaint from the past. Instead, with Serenity, he seems to say: “Remem­ber this? Wasn’t that beau­ti­ful?”. Yes, it was. And like this, it is again.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Unity (10:45)
2. Beauty (14:26)
3. Energy (12:50)
4. Love (9:28)
5. Strength (17:33)
6. Serenity (11:50)