by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
This is the first official collaboration between bvdub (Brock Van Wey) and Netherworld, otherwise known as Glacial Movements founder Alessandro Tedeschi. It is described as ‘a testament to a friendship that has endured and grown for well over a decade’.
The ‘equilibrium’ of the title is used in the context of a glacier, describing the point at which it achieves a perfect balance between the mass of snow and ice that comprises its mass. This means it is never advancing nor retreating, with the gritty warmth (bvdub) above, and the glacial cold (Netherworld) below.
What’s the music like?
It is to be assumed that bvdub and Netherworld stuck to the description above, and that the former took on the more variable elements of the music while the latter stretched out the harmonic outlines beneath. However they did it, Equilibrium works beautifully as a quartet of intense yet deeply ambient compositions.
Each piece is of equivalent length, weighing in around the 20 minute mark, and the music within casts a lasting spell.
The evocatively titled No Trees For Miles establishes the cold climate through its icy textures, and secures a strong home melodic pitch to contain the broad canvas above. The melodic lines, such as they are, move very slowly, like birds circling on the wing, though when the wordless vocals appear there is greater activity, as though zooming in closer to the mass.
Darkness From The Sun works as a gradual crescendo, like a huge keyboard getting itself into gear, before long pauses enable the listener to take in the scene around, with a massive echo giving us an idea of the sheer scale of the glacier, working up to slab of white noise at the end. Seas of Stones and Sand adds an air of mystery, its wordless voices forming weird and ethereal mini-melodies. The slowly evolving scenery takes on a vast scope with a blast of treble from an organ-like instrument, which proves overwhelming for a while before dropping back to distant, calming echoes.
Finally Ice on Fire creates the most movement, underpinned by long notes as the treble arpeggios dance like flames. Again it paints an uncannily vivid picture, one that proves extremely striking on headphones or with surround sound. As with the other pieces, it gradually subsides to silence.
This combination of rapt stillness and subtle movement is ideal for mindful meditation, but along with that the two artists paint a very vivid sound picture of the environment. The scratchy, grainy exterior maps to the hard edges of the glacier, while the stretched-out harmonies places it in stasis rather than outright movement.
Does it all work?
It does. Equilibrium is a highly descriptive quartet of works, intense yet deeply restful at the same time.
Is it recommended?
It is. Both artists have clearly spent a lot of time in getting Equilibrium just right – which in itself makes sense. What they have made is an exquisite, lasting musical stillness to ease the mind.