Safety In A Number was made over the course of two years, meaning it both predates and follows his involuntary relocation back to the US. He calls it his most intense album, and he's not wrong: even considering the theatrical pathos of past records, this one cries its sorrow from a mountaintop. The most obvious growth is how it uses vocals. Van Wey has been gradually incorporating voices into his work for a while now, but they were often layered and unintelligible. On Safety In A Number they bellow real words with all the naive sincerity of trance anthems. It seems ridiculous at first, but then you realize that kind of unguarded sentimentality matches Van Wey's mode of expression.
Two tracks over 15 minutes are the foundation of Safety In A Number. "A Human Letter In The Air" floats on a delicate piano loop; the first half is pure loneliness and desperation, while the stirring climax offers some comfort. The symphonic "Safety In Numbers" could be its own EP. It focuses on trembling synth leads that gather and recede, before the whole thing snowballs into one huge wall of sound. Made with guitars, pianos and synths all blown up to emotive extremes, this album is ambient music written in the language of post-rock. Only the relatively brief "No Glory For The Risen" settles into something like a drone.
True to form, Safety In A Number is 79 minutes long, without any kick drums grabbing for attention. It's a flood of larger-than-life emotion that rarely lets up. Fans will know this is par for the course—what's different is the level of confidence with which Van Wey carries it out. When he called this his "zenith," he meant it.
The approach comes together best on opener "Warm Tears In Three Colours," which is both a warm welcome and a gauntlet. The song opens on a bed of warm bass and balmy synths that curl like slide guitars. Every sound feels huge and lingers in a pool of reverb, though Van Wey handles them with tenderness. As "Colours" fades into silence, its vocals change from comforting to commanding, before it all explodes into a glittery overture. It's an overwhelming piece. As the vocals layer into a crosshatch of soaring phrases, it's hard to tell what Van Wey wants to get across: these tears could have come from joy or grief. Considering what he went through in the two years he spent working on Safety In A Number, the answer is probably both.
bvdub records usually have a way of making you feel something, and in the past they've functioned as a blank canvas for the listener to project onto. With Safety In A Number, there's only room for Van Wey's bluster of feelings, expressed with more force and clarity than ever before.