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LP Feature/ Dirk Serries: "Microphonics"

img  Tobias

A plaintive bass drone slowly billows in from the void and merges with a quiet clockwork of secretively embracing, solitary tones. For a few seconds, the music seems suspended, withdrawn and unsure of where to flow next. Then, without notice, a majestic melody ends the impending uncertainty. Soaring high up above and pushing the music forward, it is repeated twice before taking an unexpected Octave-leap. Even though it will only become clear later on, this is a decisive moment. For what at first seems to be the track's leitmotif will never return in its original form. Instead, merely a truncated torso of its two opening tones remains, interlocking with a pitched-down echo to create a magnetic musical field. And yet, the memory of this initial moment shapes the direction of everything that is to come. Shimmering, bell-like patterns start appearing and coalescing into breathing sheets of glistening timbre, the fragile tension and concrete, physical pulse of the opening bars slowing down to a resting haze of lulled drift still driven by the desire of returning to the thematic splendor which sparked it, yet slowly fading out into a silence filled with the acceptance of the impossibility of that wish.

This, in a nutshell, is the subdued, seductive sphere opening an album of four closely interrelated medium-length excursions into a world of liquid forms, slow pulsation and uncertain development. In fact, with regards to the latter, it is almost impossible to make out whether there is any kind of traditional 'progression' in the sense of music consciously steering towards a clearly defined destination at work here at all. Just like observing the movements of freshly hatched tadpoles in a pond, each piece releases a minimal amount of symbiotic Guitar lines and follows them as they begin to attract and reject each other. What starts out as repetitive loops seamlessly transforms into organic soundscapes without definitive centre of gravity nor discernible fore- and background. Solo melodies are absorbed into more opaque and collective textures but keep surfacing intermittently, while various overlapping harmonic cycles create thick, syrup-like clouds of gentle oscillation. All elements are subject to all but imperceptible variations, resulting in a work which replaces forward motion with mellow flow, prefers remaining in the moment above making voluble statements and sounds both gloomy and peaceful at the same time.

As almost everyone exposed to these pieces seems to enjoy them straight away, it might seem strange that Dirk Serries should have waited so long before taking his concept to the studio and, eventually, the stage. Performing them at home and as warm-ups for his gigs, they were, for years, nothing but spontaneous improvisatory meditations for him, focusing attention on different ambitions. It goes without saying that the increased confidence culled from the immediate and overwhelming reaction from a still growing audience for his Fear Falls Burning project will undoubtedly have played a part in changing his perspective. And yet, there is more to it. Serries has already referred to „microphonics“ as his most private album and after a cornucopia of publications over almost three decades of artistry, it is the very first release of any kind to bear his civil name. With regards to the fact that it certainly doesn't herald a complete change of direction, the main question here must therefore be what exactly is so personal about it.

This is all the more puzzling for an artist like Serries, to whom articulate verbal messages have always meant very little in comparison with the wordless power of intuition and imagination anyway. And yet, on closer inspection, there is indeed a pervasive sense of the record representing his personality more adequately than any previous effort. When he announced the discontinuation of Vidna Obmana, many of his fans might have doubtful about the new direction – and after investing almost half of his life into the project, he must have been equally excited and nervous as well. Since then, the expanding drone cosmos of Fear Falls Burning has rewardingly taken over from the inquisitive Ambient galaxy of Vidna Obmana. But it has always been clearly marked as a new entity - not as a break, but rather a gentle rupture within a continuum. This rupture has now been mended as „microphonics“ has ended up a sort of golden means between the two projects. Taking the approach of one man, his Guitar and a couple of effect pedals on the one hand and blending it with the atmospheric structures of his earlier work on the other, the album bridges these two worlds, which have always welled up from the same passion, more openly and traceably than any other full-length or EP before.

While Fear Falls Burning, with its direct and physical approach to performing and composing, already represented a seminally important step in breaking down unnecessary borders between the listener and the artist, „microphonics“ has finally arrived at a state where there is no emotional shield or mask between the artist and his music anymore. With its clear and volatile sound, the album constitutes the acoustic equivalent of open heart surgery. There are no concepts, scenes, layers of distortion or irony to hide behind here, everything is meant just the way it is said. It's not so much that Serries has operated so very differently in the past. But the fact that he is openly admitting that this dark, yet tender side of his character is very much who he really is, turns this album into a musical message and, indeed, into his most personal work to date.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Fear Falls Burning/Dirk Serries
Homepage: Tonefloat Records