Vloed means “flood,” and I didn’t know that until I Google Translated it. It’s a Dutch word, and since Holland is like right next to Belgium, it makes sense. Sounds like Gowaart van den Bossche – who is, indeed, from Belgium, which is why I’m taking this roundabout route – has taken his inspiration from the northern part of his country. I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I’ve been to Bruges, and let me tell you, it is indeed exactly like a fairy tale.
Where was I? Right, Vloed, and it’s a helluva statement. “Yadayn” means “two hands” in Arabic, and Gowaart, who plays guitar in Zura Zaj, couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate stage name for his talents, which include manhandling an acoustic guitar in the most imaginative and heartbreaking ways. There is so much emotion in his playing, let me just say that right now and get it out of the way because otherwise I’m going to be wiping tears from my eyes the whole time I’m writing this. He plays his guitar like I expect someone to play solo violin – with deep feeling and melodrama. But because Gowaart has kept himself firmly rooted in folk music – indeed, in a way I can’t get Jose Gonzalez out of my head when listening to it, they’re kindred spirits when it comes to plucking their instruments – he engenders a more rustic charm in his compositions instead of a refined elegance. His playing, while beautiful, is wild, and conjures images of rocky northern coasts battered by wind and sea and salt and, yes, flood.
“The Night Is Long That Never Finds the Day,” is the perfect descriptor for the minor-key wanderings and aching hope of the song. At just over 6 minutes, it perfectly encapsulates its title and doesn’t feel like it lasts that long. “Quilt” is more rustic, and sounds bedroom recorded, which adds to the charm. It’s as warm as its title suggests, as if snow was blowing heavily outside of the window and there’s a fire in the fireplace. Gowaart’s use of percussion – whacking his guitar with his hand periodically – is a nice touch.
But it’s the title track that knocks this record out of the park for me. “Vloed” opens with what sounds like keyboard or organ chords lovingly adorned with minimal picking before the song begins in earnest. It’s a sprawling composition, epic in its emotional weight, and I have to imagine exhausting for Gowaart to play. “Vloed” weaves in and out of different levels of intensity, but it all builds toward the titular catastrophic climax. At just over 10 minutes in, Gowaart adds a layer of distortion, and the playing becomes more heavy and strummed. The final 2 minutes evoke that flood, and everyone is caught up in it.
This record came out of nowhere for me – I hadn’t known of Gowaart’s work before this, and it’s an incredibly fitting introduction. Don’t dismiss Yadayn’s Vloed as some sort of guitar wankery album or dated folk recording. It’s fresh and vital, and filled with life and longing. It’s gorgeous.
RIYL: John Fahey, instrumental Jose Gonzalez