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CD Feature/ Oblivion Ensemble: "Seraphim Hallucino"

img  Tobias

Other artists may agree to play in front of tiny audiences and release a new album every two weeks in fear of being forgotten, but John Bergstrom and Brannon Hungness are not even going to move a little finger unless the entire earth shakes as a direct result. Their Oblivion Ensemble has consisted of anything between the two of them and a stage filled with 30 performers over the last fifteen years and recorded works as ambitious as a “virtual opera”. After their unanimously overwhelmingly received "Nightmare: SinistrotorsE" on Complacency Records and one of the longest ever 7’’ Vinyl offerings on Drone Records, the project all but disappeared from the recording business – to hit back with the labyrinthic musical partical shower of “Seraphim Hallucino”.

Not that we expected anything less after the alluring darkness and sinister eroticsim of their limited CD-R split with Samarkande which captured a performance from early this year and therefore actually precedes the material on this CD. In fact, the twentythree scenes of highly condensed length collected here have been meticulously compiled over time since 1996. It appears that the band was trying to distance itself from the music in an effort of making the process of glueing the individual elements together and weaving them into a glistening aural carpet shimmering in rainbow colours and smelling sweetly of psylocybin as surreal and surprising as it now is listening to the result. Every word spoken in sadness, every melody sung under a black sky, each crackling noise and tender whisper, all guitar feedbacks and sustained organ chords over almost exactly ten years have become part of an out-of-control memory trip through a burning brain. Tracks are short, some of them a mere seven-second-breaths and only the spectral strings of “a prayer of + one, calling” extend to almost five minutes on an album, which creates the illusion of eternity through constant changes: With each passing second one tumbles closes to the edge of a vast plateau where swelling tones and howling wind act as harbingers of decay and renewal. As a listener, this is a confusing and unsettling experience, as there is nothing to hold on to in the beginning. The more you agree to remain in this neverending ephemeral state, however, the more the music draws you in and the more majestic instead of terrifying it appears. One quickly realises that as the absolute need to put everything into boxes fades, the alien character of the album slowly disintegrates. Many have found it hard to put into words what happens on this disc, but it is not true that there are no allusions to “regular” genres or no structures to be found: There are traces of Industrial, (Dark) Ambient, Rock, Psychedelic Folk, Sound Collages, Avantgarde, Space Electronics everywhere, only they seem to all play at the same time.

Which is nothing new for this duo, which by its very bipolar nature almost by default steers clear of anything too recognisable: While Hungness has been a part of Glenn Branca’s live band, Bergstrom is a classically trained composer. Shedding the difficulties of finding a common theoretical ground, the Oblivion Ensemble have turned towards the actual process of making music iand a continous search for a mutually understandable vocabulary. If you’ve sailed through the hailstorms and past the deadly cliffs of the record’s almost fifty minutes and arrived at the musicbox-magic, neon strings and hushed vocals of “a(waking, her dream[projected”, then all of this will suddenly start making sense to you, too.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Oblivion Ensemble
Homepage: Oblivion Ensemble at MySpace
Homepage: Malignant Records

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