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VidnaObmana: 1987-2007: Chasing the Odyssee

img  Tobias Fischer

I had long been aware of the existence of VidnaObmana. And yet, it remained a mystery to me who was hiding behind this moniker and what kind of music it dealt with. It seemed to be a case of constantly missing out on opportunities to close the gap. Things had been different with Fear Falls Burning, which, as part of one of these typical coincidences, accompanied me right from the start along with the awareness that it marked the follow-up project to VidnaObmana and represented another solo project by Dirk Serries despite its obvious musical differences - not least because it heralded a change in his main instrument. And then, at some point, the question returned: What was VidnaObmana about? The fact that the project had a history of 23 years didn't make things any easier; it was hard to name reference albums which could serve as portals into this cosmos. Two box sets connected by their shared aim of representatively compiling the music of VidnaObmana are now set to change that situation: Testament of Tape released on Vinyl on Demand, which returns to the early industrial roots. And then Chasing the Odysee on Tonefloat focusing on the „core work“.

Their joint achievement lies in documenting the stunning development VidnaObmana has gone through from its industrial beginnings to the increasingly complex works of its later period. Undeniably, repetitive elements play an important role, but the instrumentation (minutely mentioned in the opulent 12''-size booklet designed by Charles Beterams and featuring photography by Martina Verhoeven and Tobias Fischer's accompanying liner notes) is far more epic, with compositions grouping themselves into a floating, open sound panorama. This is complex music without reverting to navel-gazing musical finger exercises, ambient and atmospheric without excessively riding the crest of a single motive or sound - finding a suitable characterisation for VidnaObmana is decidedly harder than with all subsequent projects of Dirk Serries.

Another reason for this difficulty may lie in the music's atmospheric polymorphism which, at least to my ears – and despite never entirely eschewing the decidedly darker domain of late Fear Falls Burning - always allows it to evoke more luminous moods: Thanks to the qualities inherent to its sound, familiar harmonies, perhaps also thanks to its playful spirit – but certainly thanks to its already mentioned instrumental openness and the timbres resulting from it. And still, the development of VidnaObmana, at least as depicted in the extracts contained here, seems marked by the same stringent logic as the development of the later, more tightly focused works of  Serries: With hindsight, a piece like "Reflecting On Scale IV", part of his Opera For Fusion Works, with Kenneth Kirschner manning the sonically influential piano, is already so close to Fear Falls Burning – partly, of course, through the mere fact that Dirk Serries is playing and processing the guitar here – that one could, without prior knowledge of VidnaObmana, almost consider it a Kirschner remix of a FFB-track. Which may make the work a good, perhaps even the ideal, point of entry for backward-enthusiasts: Minimal in its posture, clearly focused without loosing itself in details, repetitive and instrumentally condensed.

Next to the Opera for Fusion Works, this box set also pays homage to the second epic cycle of the VidnaObmana discography, The Dante Trilogy, which puts renewed focus on rhythmically flowing patterns. If one considers the now officially declared end of Fear Falls Burning, one can't help but feel that Dirk Serries had already worked towards a (Intuited? Deliberately chosen?) culmination-point in his oeuvre, after which everything had been said within this particular artistic identity. At least from my point of view, Frenzy of the Absolute was capable of acting as such an epochal work … and it remains to be seen what the still to be published final FFB-album will have to offer in terms of comparable gestures.

The two remaining LPs of the box make for a suitable end to this overview of the VidnaObmana journey with their high-quality live tracks from different phases and two exclusive remixes by Justin K. Broadrick and Final. Perfect.

Does this sound too theoretical / analytical? Perhaps. But if one considers the extremely low price at which Tonefloat are selling this 8-LP box plus booklet, further scrutiny is at your fingertips. It is worth it. The only precondition: You'll need more open-mindedness for VidnaObmana than for the already familiar follow-up-projects. Not because the latter are any less ambitious or one-dimensional. But rather because their instrumental focus allows for (outwardly?) more immediate access and easier digestibility. Still, picking up on Tobias Fischer's liner notes: It would be hard to imagine a better compendium through 23 years of VidnaObmana than this.

By Hellmut Neidhardt

Homepage: VidnaObmana
Homepage: Tonefloat Records

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