Vidna Obmana

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Revealed By Composed Nature , 6/10
Passage In Beauty , 6/10
Shadowing In Sorrow , 6/10
Ending Mirage , 6/10
Echoing Delight , 6/10
Spiritual Bonding , 7.5/10
Parallel Flaming , 5/10
Still Fragments Live , 5/10
Terrace Of Memories , 6/10
Soundtrack Voor Het Acquarium , 5/10
Well Of Souls , 7.5/10
River Of Appearance, 6/10
Twilight of Perception, 6/10
Crossing The Trail , 7/10
Cavern Of Sirens, 6/10
Landscape in Obscurity , 5/10
Motives For Recycling , 6.5/10
True Stories , 5/10
The Shape of Solitude , 6/10
Echo Passage , 5/10
Variations , 5/10
Spirits , 5/10
The Surreal Sanctuary , 5/10
The Contemporary Nocturne , 5/10
Tremor , 4/10
Spore (2003), 6/10
Echoes of Steel (2003), 4/10
Fear Falls Burning: First by a Whisper Then by a Storm (2005), 5/10
Fear Falls Burning: He Spoke in Dead Tongues (2005), 7/10
Fear Falls Burning: Frenzy of the Absolute (2008), 6/10
Fear Falls Burning: I'm One Of Those Monsters Numb With Grace (2006), 6.5/10
Fear Falls Burning: The Rainbow Mirrors A Burning Heart (2006), 5/10

Vidna Obmana, the project of Belgium-born Dirk Serries, practiced electronic soundpainting on the ambient trilogy begun with Passage In Beauty (1991), but Echoing Delight (1993) shifted the emphasis towards spiritual and tribal evocations. This is the genre in which Serries gave his most original and poignant works, first Spiritual Bonding (1994), a collaboration with Steve Roach and Robert Rich, and then Crossing The Trail (1998).
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Il belga Dirk Serries, che si nasconde dietro lo pseudonimo Vidna Obmana, ha creato uno stile atmosferico che nasce dalla sintesi di musica ambientale, musica cosmica e musica new age. E` il primo Europeo dai tempi di Brian Eno a comporre opere di valore internazionale in questo campo.

Serries iniziò nel 1984 all'insegna della musica industriale, campo in cui diede Monument Of Empty Colours (Decade Collection, 1988), una collaborazione con PBK, e Gathering In Frozen Beauty (Decade Collection, 1989), poi riediti come Memories Compiled (Relic, 1994), ma gli album successivi, Near The Flogging Landscape (VGO, 1989) e Refined On Gentle Clouds (Direction Music, 1989), poi raccolti in Memories Compiled vol.2 (Relic, 1996), testimoniano soprattutto la progressiva assimilazione di codici minimalisti.

Serries continuo` la sua marcia di emancipazione dagli stereotipi del tempo con Revealed By Composed Nature (Decade Collection, 1990) (HicSuntLeones, 1994) e fini` per coniare una muzak fantascientifica nella "trilogia ambientale" di Passage In Beauty (Decade Collection, 1991), Shadowing In Sorrow (Decade Collection, 1992) e Ending Mirage (ND, 1993), con l'arsenale elettronico a pieni giri e un sospetto di Klaus Schulze. I tre dischi saranno riediti come The Trilogy (Relic, 1995).

Echoing Delight (Extreme, 1993) aprì invece la fase spirituale e tribale, nella quale i monumentali affreschi elettronici della trilogia vengono deformati dai suoni snervanti delle percussioni. Echoing Delight is the prototype for much of the music to come: sweet, slick drones that slowly change timbre and intensity over a tenuous be of percussions. Crystal Travelling is the first mature expression of that idea and will remain one of his best: the electronics is rarified to attain transcendent status and the percussions are part of the flow (rather than setting the tempo).

Spiritual Bonding (Extreme, 1994), recorded in the Arizona desert with the collaboration of new age gurus such as Steve Roach and Robert Rich, may well mark the baroque zenith of his career. Soaking his languid electronic lines in non-melodic sounds such as didgeridoos, Tibetan bells and tablas, rarely used to set the tempo, Serries achieved a kind of tonal poem that is both personal and universal.
The Feather Cycle is one of Serries' most radical compositions, even if (as the title implies) it is the quintessence of "light". The languid soothing drones that have become characteristic of Vidna Obmana create a liquid dough that is left to dissolve unconstrained but it is soon matched by softly disconnected percussions that recall Nick Mason's work on Pink Floyd's Ummagumma.
Likewise, the subliminal tinkling, angular bass lines and galactic whispers of Spatial Prophecy build up a thick texture, laden with percussive sounds.
The buzz that ebbs and flows out of Spiritual Bonding is masterly manipulated, each wave fed back into the next incoming wave, until it approaches the thickness of a Tibetan mantra, and, at the same time, matched with swampy percussions.
His impressionistic art peaks with the overflow of bells and rattles that embroiders the water games of Nebulous Pathway and displays ever changing profiles in Challenging Boundaries, The Interior Journey, Earth Dangling and especially the flute sonata From The Stepping Stone and the rattling, undulating The Nebulous Pathway, are quiet, still vignettes but full of psychological movement.
If the slow, dissolving phrases of his electronic melodies are still tainted with Klaus Schulze's "kosmische musik", the boldest compositions open new horizongs for his impressionistic art and for the entire genre. The fragrance of the timbres and that way of stretching a sound effect to infinite (a moment to eternity), leisurely, reveal the influence of Steve Roach. The extreme delay of these tracks is ultimately the indifference of a music that is not concerned with evolution but only with "being", in agreement with the zen philosophy of immanence.

Vidna Obmana also recorded Parallel Flaming (Multimood, 1994) and Still Fragments Live (ND, 1994) with Belgium's percussionist Djen Ajakan Shean, Terrace Of Memories (Projekt, 1992) with Sam Rosenthal, Soundtrack Voor Het Acquarium (Zoo Antwerp, 1993) with the Hybryds, an album with Asmus Tietchens (on Syrenia, 1992) and the monumental Well Of Souls (Projekt, 1995) with Steve Roach.

Spiritual Bonding (Extreme, 1994), registrato nel deserto dell'Arizona con la collaborazione di numi della new age come Steve Roach e Robert Rich, rappresenta forse L'apice barocco della sua carriera. Inzuppando le sue languide armonie elettroniche di suoni amelodici (didgeridoo, campanelli tibetani, tablas e così via), ma raramente usati per segnare un tempo, Serries perviene a una forma di poema tonale di portata universale.
Se le lente frasi melodiche in dissolvenza appartengono ancora alla "kosmische musik" di Schulze, queste composizioni aprono nuovi orizzonti alla sua arte impressionista. La fragranza dei timbri e quel prolungare all'infinito, leziosamente, gli effetti ottenuti rivelano l'influenza di Roach. La lentezza esasperante di questi brani è quella di una musica che non si preoccupa di evolversi ma soltanto di essere, secondi i dettami della new age più atmosferica.

Vidna Obmana ha anche registrato Parallel Flaming (Multimood, 1994) e Still Fragments Live (ND, 1994) con il percussionista belga Djen Ajakan Shean, Terrace Of Memories (Projekt, 1992) con Sam Rosenthal, Soundtrack Voor Het Acquarium (Zoo Antwerp, 1993) con gli Hybrids, un disco con Asmus Tietchens (per la Syrenia, 1992) e il monumentale Well Of Souls (Projekt, 1995) con Steve Roach.

Parallel Flaming (Multimood, 1994) is a bit too self-indulgent. The haunting, ghostly whistles of Narrow Gloom (over tabla-like percussions), the vibrating crystal of sound effects of Nocturne, the dilated voices of Triangle Of Dawn, the suspended maracas and minimal motion of Fleeting Space are indeed appealing. However, the tracks take forever to begin (a habit that Serries will never truly remedy) and development is minimal, approaching the stasis of Harold Budd's Pavilion Of Dreams but without his metaphysical depth. And lengthy tracks like Doekoen are plain filler.

The Transcending Quest (almost twenty minutes of inner ecstasy) is released only on the compilation Amplexus (Projekt, 1995).

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Dirk Serries managed to repeat Spiritual Bonding's magic moment on another album of languid, ecstatic ambient trances: River Of Appearance (Projekt, 1996). Having matured through collaborations with the likes of Steve Roach and Sam Rosenthal, Serries can afford more complex techniques and constructions. The interesting thing is that the result is ever more linear and elementary. His regular piano figures, repeatedly recycled and overlapped, have acquired the quality of mantras. Nonetheless, Serries excels at impressionistic sketches such as A Scenic Fall, where he can fully display his art of pauses and slow movements. The tender filigree of these songs with no melodies makes even Harold Budd's music sound bombastic.

River Of Appearance (Projekt, 1996) vorrebbe continuare il discorso del suo capolavoro Spiritual Bonding, ma Serries ha ancora problemi a camminare da solo (anche su Bonding era stato determinante il contributo di Roach). i toni languidi e leziosi, scanditi dallo stanco incidere del pianoforte, di Angelic Appearance nuotano in quel territorio estatico a meta` strada fra ambientale e new age. Le note del piano in Streamers Of Stillness sono gocce che cadono su un paesaggio inerte. Figure del pianoforte appena piu` irregolari disturbano la quiete di Solitary Circle e creano invece suspence e tensione.
Quelle di Ephemeral Vision sono soltanto macchie elettroniche in lenta evoluzione. La tecnica di cicli e sovrapposizioni tocca il nadir di sviluppo drammatico in Night-blooming, al limite dello stupore allucinogeno.
Davanti alle meraviglie della natura Serries si improvvisa impressionista e tenta un sound appena piu` imponente A Scenic Fall, sfruttando al massimo la sua arte di pause e rallentamenti.
La filigrana tenerissima di queste romanze senza melodia fa sembrare agitata persino la musica di Harold Budd.

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Su Twilight of Perception (Relic, 1997) Dirk Serries raccoglie una manciata di inediti degli anni '90, con la pretesa di farne di un'opera omogenea. Detto che l'influenza di Steve Roach e` l'unica costante, i brani sono piuttosto banali e alcuni sembrano decisamente antiquati rispetto ai lavori recenti del compositore belga. Ciascun brano rappresenta un passo nella formazione musicale di Serries (ovvero un esperimento basato su un pretesto diverso), ma pochi sono composizioni mature, tali da giustificare un disco. Per lo piu` si assiste a un freddo esercizio di loop e campionamenti ipnotici.
Salienti comunque le eccezioni. I droni angelici e cosmici di Sanctuary Of Reply, dalle timbriche insolitamente metalliche, sono puntellati da percussioni etniche alla Roach. Il gamelan di Primary sembra immerso in un dedalo di specchi deformanti. E il tranquillo mantra di Twilight Came fa concorrenza a tanta musica new age.

Un'altra collaborazione con Steve Roach frutta Cavern Of Sirens (Projekt, 1997).

Crossing The Trail (Projekt, 1998) conferma che, se non altro, i toni lussureggianti della musica elettronica di Dirk Serries hanno pochi rivali al mondo. La musica atmosferica, tutta in sordina, di Ecnountering Terrain, punteggiata da fitte e lievi percussioni e da spettrali lamenti di elettronica, e` tanto "organica" e ricca di dettagli in continuo movimento da sembrare il documentario di un ecosistema. Poi tutto si spegne in lunghi accordi funerei, per dare un senso metafisico al vagabondaggio morale dell'artista.
L'ambiziosa Trail Dwelling e` invece troppo succube dei "deserti" poli-etnici dell'ultimo Steve Roach (che e` infatti coautore del brano). Pur con tutta l'agghiacciante profondita` drammaturgica dell'arte di Roach, il brano non ha molto da aggiungere a un programma gia` ampiamente sperimentato.
Molto piu` interessante Forest Arrow, in cui un lungo drone d'organo si protende dentro ritmi di palude. E` uno scenario al tempo stesso desolato e magnifico, che proietta un senso di infinito, di orizzonte, di incommensurabile, e che culmina con un filo di voce femminile in un anelito di soprannaturale.
Il piglio da ouverture sinfonica di Mission Ground (prima o poi dovremo riconoscere a Richard Strauss lo status di musicista new age) si stempera in un tripudio di piccoli rumori sotterranei, e il viaggio interstellare si riduce a un microscopio sulle particelle del suolo, sulle formiche e sui funghi dell'ecosistema, con un ritmo portentoso che glorifica l'assunto.
Uno screzio di dissonanze turba il placido nomadismo di Serries quando i droni senza ritmo di The Esoteric Source lo spingono in territori piu` sinistri. Ma il viaggio riprende subito con il miraggio fiabesco di The Giant Traveller, una specie di affresco impressionista alla Monet, e si conclude con l'ancor piu` fiabesca apoteosi di This Splendid Place (co-autore Jeff Pearce), fra scrosci d'acqua, sospiri d'angeli, e immani pareti di frequenze.
Nel complesso si tratta di uno dei lavori migliori di Serries.

In the meantime Vidna Obmana lent his talent to countless collaborations around the world: the 70-minute single Landscape in Obscurity (Hypnos, 1999), with flute and saxophone by Capriolo Trifoglio and Diego Borotti; Motives For Recycling (Soleilmoon, 2000), a new double-CD collaboration with Asmus Tietchens; Echo Passage (Musica Maxima Magnetica, 1999), with Italian composer Alio Die. Variations for Organ, Keyboard and Processors (Multimood, 1999), with keyboardist Willem Tanke; Spirits (Highgate, 2000), with Jan Marmenout on several exotic instruments.

The collaboration with guitarist Serge Devadder, The Shape of Solitude (Multimood, 1999), is possibly Vidna Obmana's boldest experiment in years. But, then, Serries' electronics is used only as background for his partner's abstract paintings (When A Dead Tree Sings, Perceptual Edge). The pointillism of the guitar and the continuum of the electronics engage in captivating duets. A Stinging Memory Of Shared Skin achieves a stately balance of noise and sound that is unusually harsh for Vidna Obmana's repertory. Leaving This Place Again washes ashore wave after wave of that blend, repeating a trick often (ab)used by Serries.

True Stories (Mirage, 1999) is a collaboration with Jeff Pearce. The twelve tracks are mostly short impressionistic vignettes in the vein of Brian Eno's Before And After Science. Serries' super-slow tempos and sugary tones are mostly dejavu, although at least Wander and One Question manage to replicate past grandeur. The alien noises of the guitar interact in a disturbing manner with Serries' electronic shrouds in Horizon Of Thought and in The Open Darkness, and add a welcome element to a stereotyped form. As usual, it just takes too long for these tracks to materialize, and once it finally materializes it there is almost no development. Most is an album of deferred overtures and of premature endings.

The Space In-Between, one of his most majestic compositions, appears on Ambient Expanse (Mirage, 1999): slowly unfolding organ drones that have the dark and thick quality of gregorian chants.

But his solo The Surreal Sanctuary (Hypnos, 2000) sounds like a distorted echo of the authetic voice of his early albums. Hints to ambient jazz-rock can't redeem a fundamental loss of personality. Several tracks are atmospheric all right (Lamentation, The Fragmented Dome), but Steve Roach's fans have heard them a million times. Serries' status of electronic auteur does not hinge on his imitations of master Steve Roach's style, but on his austere quasi-zen meditations based on the processed sounds of acoustic instruments.

Its second part, The Contemporary Nocturne (Hypnos, 2001), is equally subtle and baroque. Serries' program of manipualting the sound of instruments like fujara and E-bow, electric guitar and flute, is pushed to the extreme.

Subterranean Collective (Projekt, 2001) is an anthology of Echoing Delight, Parallel Flaming and Spiritual Bonding.

During the 1990s the ever prolific Serries has struck gold only three times: Spiritual Bonding and Crossing The Trail. The rest has been a mixed bag of grand ambition and hasty implementation, often derivative (especially towards Steve Roach) and often indulgent to the point of stretching tiny ideas to epic proportions (the classics do the exact opposite). Serries is still an artist in transition and now he has discovered world-music. Tremor (Release, 2001), the first part of a trilogy inspired by Dante's "Inferno", employs a wealth of ethnic instruments. But the soft percussions and the whispering electronics are not a welcome change. Very little happens in most of the eleven tracks. The percussions are a real curse. Only when they stop, do we hear some of Serris' ghostly elegance, as in the floating drones of The Insane Brightness or in the first few minutes of Artificial Repose, that recalls Stephan Micus and Deuter, or Descent, that finally connects with the narrative (one feels the floor sinking and the world disappearing in fumes and flames). Maybe with tracks like Simulate Serries is trying find a bridge to dance music. If so, he really has no idea what Banco De Gaia, Loop Guru, Transglobal Underground have been doing. If, on the other hand, he is trying to paint terrible soundscapes, he really has no idea what the Lightwave have been doing.

Spore (Release, 2003) is the second part of Vidna Obmana's Dante-esque trilogy. While using pretty much the same ethnic-electronic-ambient tricks of the past, these pieces draw harrowing visions of the inferno. This might be Vidna Obmana's most original album of the decade, the one that breaks a streak of weak imitations of his own cliches.

Vidna Obmana then embarked in a four-act opera (no vocals, but he still calls it "opera"), each act being a manipulation of sounds produced by a musician: Echoes of Steel (2003), featuring Dreams In Exile, Phrasing the Air, Reflection on Scale and The Bowing Harmony.

Fear Falls Burning is a side-project of Dirk Serries that debuted with the self-released limited-edition First by a Whisper Then by a Storm (2005) that contained eight untitled tracks for droning distorted guitar, recorded live. He Spoke in Dead Tongues (Projekt, 2005) is a more "official" launch of the same concept. It contains nine untitled tracks over two discs, each one entirely realized by spacey guitar drones: psychedelic nebulae of sustained tones (the opening tracks of both discs), om-like symphonies of interlocking drones (the third track), reverbed distorted riffs (the second 13-minute long track), high-frequency incandescent cosmic vibrations (the second track of the second disc), and apocalyptic noisefests (the fourth track). The fifth 33-minute track is an intense concerto for guitar overtones, that is quite busy and intricate by the standards of the quietly static melodies of ambient music. The second disc's monster, its third 34-minute track, is a more intimate endeavour, with bursts of tinkling notes upsetting a lattice of undistinguished drones. Surprisingly, this hyper-indulgent guitar album by an electronic musician turns out to be a lot more lively and interesting than most of the droning music of 2005. Serries certainly "indulges" in the format, but does not "abuse" it. Rarely does a performance last too long, and each track is, de facto, exploring a different facet of this art. By the end of the whole 143-minute proceedings, the feeling is not of exhaustion but of satisfaction; and almost euphoria. To some extent this work is to Serries what Somnium was to Robert Rich: the monumental detour that harks back to a personal beginning and projects into the collective subconscious.

Fear Falls Burning also released the 39-minute piece of I'm One Of Those Monsters Numb With Grace (Equation, 2006 - Tonefloat, 2009) and the live performances of The Rainbow Mirrors A Burning Heart (Auf Abwegen, 2006).

Fear Falls Burning returned with Frenzy of the Absolute (2008), whose droning jams for guitar, keyboards and drums sound like early Pink Floyd stretched to the limit (in particular the 21-minute Frenzy of the Absolute).

Continuum's Volume 1 (Soleilmoon, 2006) and Volume 2 (2007) were collaborations between Dirk Serries and Steven Wilson of Bass Communion.

Final + Fear Falls Burning (Conspiracy, 2011) was a collaboration between Justin Broadrick and Dirk Serries.

Serries played electric guitar on John Dikeman's Obscure Fluctuations (Trost, 2015), containing two side-long improvisations (From Assent To Refusal and The Heart Strips Bare).

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