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Fear Falls Burning: "The Carnival of Ourselves"; "I'm one of those Monsters numb with Grace"

img  Tobias

In a recent interview, Dirk Serries was asked whether he thought visual arts had an impact on his music. The questions was possibly inspired by the minute attention awarded to his cover images and the overall presentation of his music and even though Serries spoke freely about his admiration for the works of Rothko and the photography of his wife Martina Verhoeven, he essentially answered in the negative, denying a direct influence of imagery on compositional decisions. And yet, his release policy over the last five years has subtly merged his ideal of a record constituting a momentary artistic position and the intrinsic uniqueness of sculptural artworks. Restricted to print runs of sometimes no more than 300 copies, his Vinyl publications have often constituted a blow in the face of the undecided, some of them already turning unavailable the day they were officially released.

This defiant counterpoint to the general morale of everything ultimately being duplicable was part of the appeal of these works, of course, which thrived on a truly personal relationship between the artist and his audience. But contrary to paintings, whose inbuilt exclusivity is usually softened by the possibility of public display, you can't sensibly decorate the walls of museums with LPs, thereby depriving newly-won fans of an opportunity to explore the project's history after stock has been diminished. Quite obviously, there was an audience hungry for these sounds and it was fully willing to trade its ideals of „free art“ for hard cash on ebay. How to appease these developments?

Re-releasing the original albums on CD seemed the only solution capable of retaining the collector's status of the Vinyl editions and simultaneously ensuring general availability. Packaged in elegantly oversized digipacks with cardboard slip-ins, they have turned out little works of art in their own right, while the inclusion of additional bonus tracks sheds further light on the gradual progression of Fear Falls Burning from its quasi-naive beginnings to its headstrong and unmistakable present form. Choosing „The Carnival of Ourselves“ and „I'm one of those Monsters numb with Grace“ from a potential pool of eight records (discounting collaborations) makes sense as well. While „Carnival“ sums up the Ambient-beginnings of Serries' new nom de plume – an aspect of his oeuvre which he would later continue to explore with his microphonics releases - „Monster“ marks the introduction of explicit Metal references into his cosmos. Regardless of the ongoing musical value of these and other full-lengths, therefore, they must be considered stepping stones for Fear Falls Burning in conceptual terms and as incisive moments which would ultimately come to define his style for the next years to come.

Far from simply transferring the music from analog to digital, both albums have notably been remastered as well. With Bass frequencies richer and more physical than before and higher tonal regions more crisp and transparent, „The Carnival of Ourselves“ sounds less ghostly and effervescent and instead develops a rather laminar and textural character. Essentially, this is an entirely new album, which even after several spins comes across as more insistent and forceful than the orginal release. „I'm one of those Monsters numb with Grace“, meanwhile, has traded in a tad of its dirty garage-spirit for a balanced production which brings out the psychedelic aspects of the music more pronouncedly.

All those who thought they had their minds made up about these releases should therefore think again. The first minutes of „Monsters'“ flipside, for example, only now truly comes across as a warm, resting and sensual counterpart to its ritualistic and nervous A-side (and, against expectations, may over time prove to be the true highlight of the work). „Carnival“, on the other hand, is awaiting an entirely fresh appraisal. What seemed like extremely delicate experiments in form and mood at the time now appear as concisely realised, infinitely emotional elegies. In terms of arrangement, both tracks are marked by the same idea: A continuous pattern provides for a sense of coherency and continuity, while slowly rising structures gradually wash over it like a sonic wave. What some have regarded as a somewhat trivial technique comes across as incredibly consoling here, as music orchestrating its own destruction with absolute acceptance.

With such a rewarding boost to the acoustic potential, bonus tracks would, strictly speaking, not have been necessary. Their presence, on the other hand, is more than welcome nonetheless: Clocking in at 34 minutes, „Dead Wisdom“ on „Monsters“, for example, is almost as long as the actual album itself and perhaps even more intriguing. Pearling off a riff-driven soundscape seismically perturbed by volcanically erupting subsonics, it floats into a canyon of deep and dark whispers, resulting in a track taking Serries' vision into epic stream-of-consciousness territory. Live-recording „And the Land Torn Down“ (on „Carnival) is more reminiscent of the extended sets from the „Infinite Sea of Sustain DVD“ (which proved to be a massive sales success at the Tonefloat booth at his guest slot at the SUNN O))) gig in Leuven), opening with silent, singular triangle-waves which are submerged with Serries' recognisably intertwining mysterious melodies to result in a potently subdued piece whose cropped-up aggression always seems to be looming threateningly in the background.

Instead of turning one's perception of this phase in the Fear Falls Burning catalogue upside down, they instead confirm the notion that experimentations were increasingly turning into certainty: A definitive style was starting to bud, whose reverberations would be felt on subsequent albums and across the scene.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Fear Falls Burning
Homepage: Tonefloat Records