Review by Philip Whitehouse
Book of Illusions: Chapter I & II
Before I even start this review, I want to say that I have the utmost respect for this artist. A one-man project, VLE is a CD of pure experimental and improvised music. According to the CD sleeve, 'the most important element is the depiction of atmosphere where all instruments/sounds fuse together.' Not many bands can do that using rigid songwriting techniques.
But maybe that's where they're going wrong. Perhaps in the struggle to make sounds hang together in a logical fashion, they're losing the appreciation of the fact that music can be at its most expressive and emotional when it is unrestricted by logic, unconstrained by time signatures, when it basically comes from the heart.
The first track on this CD is, Kano, is an achingly emotional, ambient soundscape that is both relaxing and uplifting. Instruments are gradually layered on top of one another, but rather than accumulating to make the sound loud and suffocating, they meld together seamlessly to add to the building atmosphere.
Freedom to Fly, the next track, is the first to feature vocals, and this to me is the album's first sticking point. Improvised vocals, to my mind, never work. They always sound forced, somewhat arhythmic to the music and ill-fitting to the atmosphere. Such is largely the case here, with the added downside that the echoes and reverb added to the vocals make the words inaudible and the singing in all little more than a slightly jarring distraction to the music itself. Later tracks redress the balance, with more up-tempo pieces bringing a greater focus to the guitars. Behold The Night showcases a simplistic yet driving riff that complements the mildly hypnotic electronic backing melody perfectly. Overall, this is a very impressive album. It is mood music in the medium of atmospheric metal, and while the production leaves a lot to be desired and the freeform vocals occasionally grate, the emotional effects of the songs within cannot be doubted. I actually find it hard to criticise something that is simultaneously so ambitious and so successful in acheiving its ambitions.
Essential listening for anyone willing to hear something a little different to the norm, or for anyone who wants to hear what music can sound like when it is constrained only by the imagination of the creator.