December 10, 2013
by Jasper Willems
For the past six years, Stefan Breuer lended his talents to many of Snowstar‘s imperial racehorses, notably Lost Bear and I Am Oak. On top of that, he claims to have written over 300 songs under his pseudonym The Subhuman. Not unlike his hero Robert Pollard, Breuer’s a prolific writer who seemingly conjures splendiferous rock hooks in the most knee-jerk fashion. But fact remains, it’s all very deliberate, the musical equivalent to a Larry Bird-circus shot behind the backboard.
Within the aforementioned six-year span, Breuer has clandestinely dabbled into his latest project, The World of Dust. The result of this meticulous process is Bhava (a buddhist term for ‘rebirth’), an otherworldly patchwork of vibrant prog tapestry and morose folk delirium. A most compelling listen, given its structure alone: twelve short tracks – all clocking in at three minutes or less – precede “The Universe”, Bhava‘s ambitious fourteen-minute apex.
Before Bhava reaches that apex however, Breuer embarks on a subconscious soul-search between dream world and reality. Opener “Bunny” briefly explores dark caverns with its gossamer Boards of Canada-ish drones, before “Shapes” meditates further on a more material plane, thanks to I Am Oak’s Thijs Kuijken’s pristine, wistful singing: “Who saw this coming?” Before we can figure it out, a rapturous sax-improv sequence spellbinds us towards yet another empty abyss, the vocoder-tinged “Decay”.
It’s quite remarkable how all of this happens within just the first four (!) minutes of Bhava. Astounding really, because each and every song manages to unfold like a complete chapter, sufficiently touching base with all its peaks and valleys to leave a definitive imprint. Almost as if awakening from a dream that takes place over days and realizing you’ve only slept for an hour.
The reciprocity between dream and reality seems to be The World of Dust’s driving force. “Delay” is an unabashedly gentle and carefree, while the neoclassical “Huru” – based on a drug-induced vision Breuer had at Dour festival – is actually quite menacing, with staccato-violins ushering insistent vocal mantras.
“Saha” precipitates to Bhava’s culminating finale “The Universe” , as Breuer’s husky vocals blend in nicely with his other half Anneke Nieuwdorp. You can almost picture two lovers having their moment together as his huge vortex lingers closer and closer, eventually hurling them both in. Just incredibly, incredibly moving.
Despite its considerable length, “The Universe” is by no means a departure from the records ongoing trajectory. It’s a kaleidoscope of sound on its own, continuously fluctuating to different realms, exploring botanic gardens, riding ethereal star streams and marching along with triumphant, technicolor parades.
Where up till now, Bhava felt like calculated tease – the crux of the songs subsiding the moment you’re all wired in – “The Universe” pervasively barrages you with these genuine, awe-inspiring surges. As if some select existential truths were made candid to you – even for just a split second – before eluding you yet again. Thus, the search begins anew.
According to Breuer, The World of Dust wasn’t meant for the live stage. Which actually makes sense, as it would be detrimental to the surreal listening experience Bhava instills. Its astute coherence would most likely be compromised, because this record draws for the most part on succinct moments of solace and bliss throughout Breuer’s ambivalence.
The World of Dust boldly documents a restless musician’s spiritual journey, seeking sanctuary within these fragments, even as they wither away into obscurity. Bhava captivates you like that vivid dream you try to remember, yet only its utmost aesthetics remain suspended in animation.
The World of Dust’s Bhava will officially be presented and released at Snowstar Records’s 10-Year Anniversary soiree at Tivoli Oudegracht next Friday. Stefan Breuer will be hosting a listening session at 5pm to showcase the album. You can pre-order The World Of Dust – Bhava, which comes with a limited edition 44-page art book as addendum, at Snowstar’s website.