Album title: Epilogues for the End of the Sky
Release date: 28 April 2017
Label: Glacial Movements
01. On Deaf Hearts Your Prayers They Fall
02. With Broken Wings and Giants Tall
03. Sparkling Legions Turn to Black
04. Your Painted Armor Aches to Crack
05. Clouds Besiege What You Remain
06. Footsteps Fade If Not Your Pain
07. Love is Never Asking Why
08. It All Ends with the Coming Sky
bvdub is Brock Van Wey of San Francisco. Epilogues for the End of the Sky is my first encounter with him, though it seems that he has been creating music through one name or another since the late ’80s. So it is no surprise that when I heard this album the first time it seemed so nuanced and masterfully crafted. Since that first listen, I can barely go a day without hearing it.
bvdub fits somewhere between the space of dark melancholic ambient and deep house music. There are no beats or percussion to speak of, but the format and general aesthetics of the album certainly lead in the direction of some deep house or trance music. The most recognizable element that gives it this tag is the sparing use of vocal sections throughout the album. They will gently creep in and out of the mix, as if part of a DJ’s set. One some tracks like the opener, “On Deaf Hearts Your Prayers They Fall” the vocals are quite subtle, yet others will bring them much closer to the surface.
The piano is used in just such a sparing yet emotive manner as the vocals. Some tracks will barely allow it to surface in the background, while others bring it directly to the forefront, guiding the direction of the track. “Sparkling Legions Turn To Black”, my favorite track on the album, brings these two elements together perfectly. There is a spacey feeling, a sense of some late night deep house set on a beach. But this is only what it suggests, the music itself is deeply melancholic. It seems more a memory of a distant summer in the past, in a time during one’s youth that will never return.
This track, “Sparkling Legions Turn To Black” showcases a lot of the best elements of Epilogues for the End of the Sky. There are sweeping drone elements, deeply relaxing, yet always seeming to have a darker element present. The track starts out with this light droning, before an acoustic guitar enters the mix. Later as these two elements come to an apex the vocal section is presented. This really brings that feeling of a distant memory to the surface. These vocals are barely recognizable at first, but they will boil to the surface bringing an emotional charge along with them. By the eight minute mark, the track drops to almost a silence before the synthesizer elements and vocals take to the forefront. The rest of the eleven-plus minute track is much more direct, and comes the closest to deep-house that we will hear on the album.
All of these elements give a suggestion of something from the electronic dance music scene, but they never arrive at that destination. Which is exactly why the album fits so well on Glacial Movements. The music moves along at that glacial pace, often leading toward a climax which never arrives. This increases those melancholic elements. It gives the album a truly sad feel. Add to this the occasional input of field recordings and we are left with an album that is not the usual sort of dark ambient at all, but it pulls at the emotions of the listener in many of the same ways. When presented with something that is ambient and deep-house with no tempo, but the entirety is vastly melancholic, this seems the perfect recipe for attracting the attentions of dark ambient listeners.
You may need to already have an appreciation for house or trance or some other techno scene to enjoy this album. I’ve always loved those genres, so it seems natural that this depressive take on those styles would feel so perfect for me. Listeners who enjoy taking a step outside the usual formula will find a lot to love here. But if you were never too interested in these mentioned genres or if you prefer your dark ambient to remain orthodox, then this will not be the album for you. But for those of us who do enjoy this stretch, there is a lot here to fall in love with. Epilogues for the End of the Sky feels like a bit of a risk for Glacial Movements, as it moves a little further outside their usual format than one might expect. But the album is truly worthy of attention, and the years of experience behind its creator is obvious from beginning to end.
Written by: Michael Barnett