Flowing along quietly, yet purposefully, Wolven induces a state of tranquil reflection and a heart-felt appreciation for all things beautiful. It's a fluid beauty that is allowed to flourish thanks to the always innovative music of Ian Hawgood, who, along with his very talented friends, have created a record of stunning ambience that stretches as far as the eye can see and further still; you’d expect nothing short of quality music, and Wolven delivers this in abundance. In her infancy, Wolfskin had the privilege of being the first release on the label Hibernate. Over the last couple of years, Wolfskin has been entirely reworked, and what you see sparkling before you now is Wolven.
Since Ian Hawgood sets the musical bar as high as can be, and doesn’t create anything remotely approaching standard, you can be sure of special music. Across years, across periods, Wolven will, with all probability, still sound pretty amazing fifty years down the line. Forward thinking experimentation is met with classical instrumentation – the cello and her husky, melancholic bravery can be heard folding over divine layers of cloudy and ethereal ambient atmospheres that wash over your surroundings completely, entirely.
Aaron Martin takes on cello duties on what is a fine addition to the instrumentation, but take a look at the list of contributing interpretations and you’ll see why everyone is getting so excited – Dag Rosenqvist, Spheruleus, Pillowdiver, y0t0 and Hakobune are all featured musicians. And it is the cello that sails into the ports of ‘The New World’, carrying with it an emotional intensity that can’t really be rivaled by any other instrument; in tone and breadth she is queen. Subtle, sweeping textures arise and take their gentle form, floating as if on the wings of a butterfly. There’s a humble space and a grateful allowance for deep meditation to blossom, as if the state itself was born on the ascension of a sunrise. It’s also a state that’s expected to happen, and like a sunrise, it’s as sure a thing as can be. Mind-expanding atmospheres awaken peace in the heart, in a place where serenity is only interrupted occasionally by a flow of frequency-static (‘Blue Type III’), but even this doesn’t last long. Subdued corners and areas of reflection are kind pauses along Wolven’s passing. Eventually, dormant areas bloom into a spectacular supernova, all in the blink of an eye.
A light, clean electric guitar slides along a path of improvisation, morphing into a delightful ambient excursion that sets its sails over the seas of the title track, ‘Wolven’. The four-part journey is at the heart of the record, where radio static acts as gentle interference, and where the rise and fall of the ambient atmospheres reflect the rhythmic motion of the deep blue ocean. Fizzling static overlaps with the treble-dense, gorgeous sound of what could be palm held seashells. Voices are left behind in the music; traces of dialect that echo through to this world. Clouded drones are brought back into the foreground with ‘Wolven III’, where any melody is one striving to break through the sheets and the wrapping of dense drone. Submerged, the sound cannot help but linger somewhere in the gorgeous haze of a late summer evening. It’s the kind of ambience that makes you truly appreciative of the efforts on offer, and for one more minute of sweet light.
The sedate, looped and cut arpeggios of ‘Blue Type I’ positively beam with radiance, shooting out rays of substantial, unbroken light. And while the music is always tranquil, there’s an amazing amount of energy inside and underneath the main melodies and harmonies. ‘Shallows Break’ is a beautiful layer of refined, instrumental drone, over which the cello sits on her throne, presiding over the piece and her ultimate direction with loving strings and caressing hands. Eventually, the drone is diluted, washing away like an outgoing tide and dragging the cello down to Atlantis with it.
And then we reach the final trinity. Covering just over an hour, this is Wolven’s soul in splendour; one that has been entirely reworked by Brock Van Wey, who is of course bvdub. An ethereal atmosphere soothes and warms the heart in a way that is pure bvdub, and it’s the kind of atmosphere that only he can attain. ‘Wolfskin (One Last Breath Under A Warm Winter Sun)’ starts off by whipping up sands of forgotten love and hope for healthy renewal underneath a failing sun, a falling season. A renewal of itself, the track glistens underneath her own ambient cloud. A piano progression, sprinkled with a light, optimistic major melody, raises a smile in the midst of a brutal winter. An unshakable knowledge of the warmth to come offers an inner light, a candle in the bleak. The foundation crumbles, passing away as everything must, until only one constant remains; hope.
‘All These Memories Are Blue Type (Fields of Indigo Lights Where Your Love Used To Be’) continues to shine, and when the heavier bass comes in, it thoroughly cleanses the music with positive vibes. The absence of beats, usually so dominant in bvdub’s music, places the ambience and her gradual unfolding at the very centre, and bvdub’s signature of luscious, feminine vocals wrapped in delay and a fountain of reverb are always a pleasure to behold. Looped atmospheres create a delectable world, where getting lost is easy and natural; you never want to stumble and find the signs that lead the way back to reality.
As if that wasn’t enough – deep breath please – ‘Red Rugs of Infinite Grass (Titans of Dahlia Hold You To The Sky – For Ian’) is the heart-wrenching coda to an amazing experience; one that’s only made possible through music. Sunny piano chords sparkle with optimism and triumph over adversity, and the rosy texture really do lift the music up; holding it to the sky. You never want it to stop.
Wolven, with her many appearances and forms, her new life and brave imagination, is a rarely glimpsed window into the inner soul of music and endeavour, encouraging us to stare out into the lake of infinity.