Kevin Verwijmeren – Those Glorious Heights (Icarus Records/Vynilla Vinyl, 2016)


With the weather’s unusual warmth this year thanks to El Nino it’s felt like there’s been a lack of wintry content on the Ambient radar thus far; Verwijmeren actually doesn’t solve that deficit precisely, but there definitely is a Winter of an emotional kind in the cool, lonely heart of his latest effort Those Glorious Heights.

The record itself is as seamless as it comes, 42 minutes of chaptered integrations that flow effortlessly from one beleaguered expression of melancholia to the next; opener “Last” draws from his Futuresequence background in its slow and barely grazing drone shimmers, hovering tones of almost ethereal presence, like ghosts of feeling. It’s cool, disconnected and lonely, the final violin winnows the icing on this mournful cake as it slips into “Vík” and its similarly thrumming abandon, lost in mirages of immobile drone stuck in place and uncertain of their next steps. Things continue to drain away in the aptly titled “Nothing Still Left” too; the shortest piece here it barely leaves an impression as it passes us by in gossamer warblings, other people’s satisfactions casting a Doppler shadow over our own emptiness.

Its mid-album partner “A Change Of Time” begins to nod towards a turnaround though as it dances dangerously on the edge of decoherence, its empty throes suddenly abuzz with static washes that jilt us into momentary discomfort, ultimately translating the shock into action as it passes into “I’ll Draw You A Mountain”. Thin tones paint the surface ready to be rewritten, a papery and dry expanse suddenly rejuvenated by bold strokes of heavy guitar drone, slashes carving character and dynamism out of thin air; there’s a faint hope for the future developing. “We Believe” is the first and only truly hopeful moment of the record in this active stretch post-catharsis; minutes of replete and scarcely populated minimalism go by as it slowly agglutinates, drawing itself together in coagulating propulsions and driving, oscillating electronica that propel it into a self-controlled future.

The effect isn’t immediate however, as we implode in the faint pacings of “The Light Is Coming”, a cool neutrality descending over its repetitive synth ebbs before it shifts into the slow-motion drama of closing “Keep Me Up At Night”. Echoing some of the same sentiments as aloof “Nothing Still Left”, thoughts drift by lazily in distracting synth rotations, the cleared void still faintly populated by the difficulties of reality and an unsettled mind. Ultimately it gathers itself at last, casting shining synth tones like slow, cleansing breaths that relegate the turning diversions back to the ether before we finally find some respite in sleep.

Its faint and sad little evolving tale is brilliantly executed and totally immersive; no track feels complete without the support and context of its fellows and yet each one adds a satisfying and important notch in the seamless emotional evolution of the record as a whole. Might be darker than you think depending on your mood, but so engaging as a result.