Dunas – “Boas-Vindas”

Boas-VindasGrade: A-

Key Track: “Em Algum Lugar Dentro de Nos”

Dunas, a name that translates to “those sand dunes” from Portuguese, is a Brazilian-based band featuring the ambitiously experimental Francois Veenstra. The band, normally a Portuguese-singing, straightforward band, ventured way out during a contemplative period and instead recorded an improvised, instrumental, ambient EP. “Boas-Vindas” is four tracks and roughly thirty-three minutes of an improvised story.

The album’s opener, “Em Algum Lugar Dentro de Nos,” is an extremely peaceful work. It’s very ambient, and centered around an echo-y guitar and various nature sounds. The song, especially it’s first half, gives an aura of satisfaction and sounds like enjoying a nice spring day falling in tune with nature. Much of it sounds like it’s recorded from within a cave, with it’s swooping, almost wind-like rhythms.

Since it’s improvised, it’s tough to know if Dunas had planned for this EP to have a real storyline, but it seems to have a narrative of descent. If “Em Algum Lugar Dentro de Nos” is peaceful and feels like laying on the forest floor, watching the sky, “Por Favor, Por Favor” feels like becoming too engulfed. The song’s airy and faux-futuristic rhythms might seem like falling asleep comfortably on the forest floor, but is more akin to letting yourself get overtaken by the nature around you. It’s also a relatively peaceful song, and the lightest on the EP, but it slowly seeps into one that isn’t, through the sound of things getting disconnected at the end.

“Boas-Vindas” feels like a descent into a gritty underworld. Its immediately abrasive, back-and-forth dissonant piano rhythms are a stark difference from the first two tracks. The song feels like a bad dream; or seeing the ugly side of nature. If it starts in a cave, it ends deeper down, in darkness. The song’s title roughly translates to “hearty welcome,” and that’s what it resembles – an unwelcoming welcome. Other synth rhythms pile onto the early ones, and play until the noise settles into something less intense but no less loud – as you get more accustomed to it. The short outro, “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” follows in the previous song’s volume and drone-like tone.

The EP all flows together, as if it were one long song. This helps to enhance whatever sort of increasingly dark narrative hides behind the ambient music. The EP slowly goes from peaceful to forceful, and does both very well, especially when you factor in the improvisation. “Em Algum Lugar Dentro de Nos” is engagingly warm, and it makes the slow descent into noise all the more powerful. It is best appreciated with headphones on, to take in the full ambient effect. “Boas-Vindas” is a strong and weighty ambient release, so let it wash over you.

The band has produced a set of videos to accompany the EP’s lengthy tracks. You can watch the video for “Em Algum Lugar Dentro de Nos”

-By Andrew McNally

Veenstra – “People & The Woods”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “I’m Sorry, I’m Lost” “The Hollow Realm”

“People & The Woods” is the third album in a trilogy – you can find my review of the second album, “Six Months of Death,” here – and it largely feels like the ending to a progressing narrative. It does what any finale to a trilogy should do, it kicks it up a notch. The album, much like the two previous, is wickedly lo-fi. It was all written and recorded by Francois Veenstra, and it often has the tone of an ambitious solo project. The trilogy isn’t exactly a happy one, as this album deals with finding yourself suddenly alone. While maybe not as existential of a topic as before, it’s one that’s just as striking.

This album has more of a band feel to it, although it is still a solo act. There are full band instruments on more of the tracks than before. For a finale, Veenstra wanted to go for a more cohesive feel. The album has a great balance because of it, with shorter, more ambient pieces intersecting some more traditional tracks. And the heaviness of the album’s story gets transferred through the varying volumes. Each sound, be it guitars, vocals, bass, drums, all are elements of the story. They’re never working against each other, instead complementing each other and working to fill a story. He continues to show an ability to switch up an album before any certain idea gets too old, providing for a very satisfying listen. It’s interesting that the album has just as much of a dreamy feel, despite the added instruments. Even with the increase, the album feels more sparing, more distant than before, and it helps it to feel just as lonely as the character.

The only real criticism I can muster is a slight dissatisfaction with the final track, “Mirror Lake.” Veenstra’s longer songs have often been some of the bigger opuses of the albums, but the song is instrumental and softer. On a purely sonic level, I was a little disappointed in a more subdued track to end the trilogy. But even then, I understand it on a level dealing with the album’s dark themes. Having a lighter, more ambient finale is a little haunting when you take the tone into account. Otherwise, I think it’s another solid experimental, lo-fi album. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s very good for those that it will. It’s a great finale, full of existential dream-pop and lo-fi rock that’ll likely stick in your mind for a while.

The album is available here.

-By Andrew McNally

Veenstra – “Six Months of Death”

Photo Credit: Bandcamp.com

Photo Credit: Bandcamp.com

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “A Bear/A Fire/A Cave,” “Stone Burial”

Francois Veenstra, a solo musician from Brazil, is in the midst of an existentially lo-fi trilogy. His second album, “Six Months of Death,” was recorded like his debut, in an ultimate lo-fi setting: a bedroom, alone, with a handheld recorder. The album’s title sets the existential tone and states that the album is going to be no less introspective than his previous effort, “Journey to the Sea”. The first album in the series saw a protagonist following a river to the sea. “Six Months of Death” follows this protagonist as he finds the sea and begins to wander aimlessly, realizing the pointlessness of his previous adventure.

Musically, the protagonist’s existential pains are felt through winding, quiet music, all recorded by Veenstra. The songs are more like movements, building up or winding down at unexpected points. The transitions between songs feel more like thought breaks than song breaks – which is good, as it implies that the album works well as a whole. His vocals are tough to decipher, but they only show up sometimes, as the whole entity of the album seems to encompass this character and his travels. The album is experimental lo-fi alternative stuff, often quiet but getting the point across. Veenstra is a pretty decent musician, commandeering drums and bass just when the muted guitar begins to get a little slow. It is certainly quiet and toned-down, so lo-fi fans take notice. I’m curious what will happen to the protagonist next.

Veenstra’s albums can be found on Bandcamp, and he runs the blog Beings Being.

If you like this, try: “Whenever, If Ever” by The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, the previous review before this one.

-By Andrew McNally