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CD Feature/ Fear Falls Burning: "When Mystery Prevades the Well, the Promise sets Fire"

img  Tobias
It was bound to happen. When Dirk Serries began producing under the name of Vidna Obmana almost a quarter of a century ago, his music could be summed up as dark and cinematic industrial soundscapes. A couple of years later, he released the dream-like “The River of Appearance”, a telekinetic connection with the Brian Eno/Harold Budd albums of the mid-80s and seemingly the work of an entirely different composer. “I like to push boundaries while loosing grip onto the initial concept.”, Serries describes his sometimes involuntary evolutionary process. And yet, this “personal flaw”, as he calls it, is the spark which gave birth to “When the mystery prevades the well, the promise sets fire”.

The last harbinger of the upcoming new CD on Conspiracy Records, “When the mystery...” introduces guest musicians to Fear Falls Burning for the first time on a “regular” studio record. Of course, the 5LP set “Once we all walk through solid objects” (also on Tonefloat) already hinted at this possibility with its concept of various collaborations under the roof of the guitar drone.

Back then, though. it was still more of an experimental exception, a serene celebration of the project’s first two years and of a scene in the state of waking. Just a few months later, there was the aswoonly ghost shuffle of the partnership with New Zealand’s Birchville Cat Motel, another sign that the walls of the monastery were crumbling. Now, however, Serries is as serious about opening up as never before.

The aforementioned record for Conspiracy is said to feature four sidekicks, three of them drummers/percussionist, with Dave Vanderplas contributing to both “Frenzy of the absolute” and “When the Mystery prevades the well, the promise sets fire”. For anyone still uncomfortable with this immanent change, it will come as a relief to hear that his performance, as important and (at least in my opinion) decisive as it is to this LP, is nonetheless extremely subtle and fully integrated into the mix as well – fusion rock or metal are still as far away as ever. Rather than concretising his cymbals into repetitive patterns or cohesive rhythms, Vanderplas adds a fine metallic layer to the drones, like iron dust blown across the surface of a giant electromagnet by the breath of the wind.

Side 1 does open with one of his brush strokes, as if to introduce him to the audience, but just a second later, Serries jumps in with moaning bass drones, backwards loops and a deep pedal point, slowly but insistently pushing the piece forward. On Side 2, the impulses are less transformed, with loose hits of dry metal scattered around the track. Overall, the mood of this side is more aggressive, its tonal edges sharper, although it sheds some of its threatening potential over the course of the dialogue between Serries and Vanderplas.

While it may seem that the new material stays pretty close to the by now well-known formula, this proves to be an illusion. In search of older reference points, I quickly discovered, in fact, that “When the Mystery prevades the well, the promise sets fire” doesn’t sound like anything that has come out under the Fear Falls Burning logo. Less smooth than “The Carnival of Ourselves” and more refined than both “The Amplifier Drone” and “The Rainbow Mirrors a Burning Heart”, it presents a style which is confident enough to dismiss the need for drastic changes.

Pieces start off with a restricted set of themes and then continue to allow these themes to develop through time. His new method invites the listener to look at a track from various angles, revealing some of the transformations only to those listening very attentively. It is not so much the hypnoticism of the magically meandering repetitions, but the inner complexity of the music, which can never fully be grasped in a single moment, which justifies and endorses this approach: Compositionally, Serries has never been this efficient before.

The effort of allowing external influences in has interestingly enough made the core of what Fear Falls Burning is about even clearer: Texture. All elements are entangled in an inseperable knot, which rotates around a single, unfathomable idea. On the first side, a sinister melody initially obscures sight of this organic tissue, but gradually, it, too, is submersed in the undulation, like yet another satellite circling Saturn, as the underlying truth manifests itself.

While “When the Mystery prevades the well, the promise sets fire” may rather be part of the ongoing search to keep the original Fear Falls Burning ethos of one man and his guitar alive in permutating manifestations, recent blog entries suggest that “Frenzy of the Absolute” may truly represent a break in the catalogue. The future, then, may yet hold a couple of surprises. One of the artists to appear in Dirk Serries’ current playlist is Miles Davis, after all. another man who couldn’t just keep on doing what he had been doing in the past – fusion rock and metal may turn out to be more than just silly daydreams some day.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Fear Falls Burning
Homepage: Tonefloat Records

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