Review by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Album assigned by: Kevin O’Meara
When I was assigned to review the album Veldbrand by the group Bosveld I thought at first, based on the name alone, that this was gonna be some kind of Scandinavian Death Metal type deal or at least something along the lines of that glum drone-y sound that seems to be gaining so much traction these days. You see to my ignorant mind the name Bosveld and the title Veldbrand conjured up scenes involving violent thunderstorms and a mist drenched purple darkness, men in thick hooded robes performing uncanny rites to summon up horrible preternatural entities, loud guitars played at insanely fast speeds and for vocals an unholy growling that seemed to be forcing its way through the earth up from the very pit of hell itself. And so rather understandably I began to steel myself for an all out assault on my eardrums. But no what I got instead is a sonically understated piece of atmospheric electro-folk that creeps along at a very slumberous pace indeed and which has a tendency to take itself more seriously than it maybe should. At times the hushed, world weary vocals are reminiscent of Mark Lanegan, that is if he’d been less fond of cheap whisky and cheaper women, and instead preferred brooding alone in an abandoned woodshed with a only a record player and a battered copy of Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear for company; other times the vocals float along over a surface of quivering strings and earnest folky guitar like John Martyn on tranquilizers.
Bosveld are all about building up a very particular kind of atmosphere, something like an autumn sunset squinted at from an abandoned woodshed in a temperate forest, and so they make few concessions to such mundane musical niceties such as melody or audible lyrics (I’m not even sure what language it is the vocalist is singing in a lot of the time). Veldbrand is essentially an ambient-folk record, somewhat in the vein of the aforementioned Veckatimest except that unlike Grizzly Bear Bosveld seem to regard musical hooks and memorable choruses as a distraction, and extraneous to their purposes. It must be granted that understood as a piece of ambient music in which each individual element is subsumed to the purpose of evoking a general feeling or sense of place, Veldbrand is not an ineffective record: that is, even if there are no melodies that stick around in your head, the hushed atmosphere of the piece does in fact linger on as insubstantial as a photographic afterimage after you stop listening, and the effect seems to last just as long as an afterimage usually does.
Everything is pervaded by an ominous feeling of lethargy and a vague kind of uneasiness, It’s just obtrusive enough that you probably wouldn’t want to leave it on at a polite dinner party. That is to say it’s not background music in the most trite and offensive sense of the word and this redeems the record somewhat. But for all that in the end Veldbrand is underwhelming: it does not offer an interesting enough soundscape to really succeed as a compelling piece of ambient music — although it might work well as a film soundtrack — which makes me think that they were perhaps a little rash to think they could do away with melodies and hooks just yet. (5.5/10)