[Reviewed by vitriol]
The number of projects, releases and illustrious collaborations Dirk Serries has participated in, I’d like to believe needs no clarification in an ambient-based zine such as this one. This Belgian craftsman of abrasive electronics, noise/ drone, meditative ambient and atmospheric harmonies and dissonances has been active since 1985; with his monikers Fear Falls Burning and especially Vidna Obmana, he constitutes nothing less than an ambient legend. If despite the bulk, range and accessibility of his work you’re still not very familiar with him, I suggest you start with his website (http://dirkserries.com/) and the Projekt records Bandcamp (http://projektrecords.bandcamp.com/), and take it from there.
After successfully closing the cycles of Vidna Obmana and Fear Falls Burning, Serries decided he no longer needed a musical alter ego, and since 2008 he has been releasing under his own name. “The Origin Reversal” as stated in the label website was ‘performed in real-time directly to a stereo 2-track, […] only with a Gibson Les Paul custom guitar and a few pedals.’ Unsurprisingly for those of us who enjoyed Serries’ 2012 collaboration with Steve Roach, “Low Volume Music”, this album is strongly reminiscent of the more meditative moments of Vidna Obmana, and moves in an aura of serenity and benevolent introspection. In the CD sleeve is found the phrase ‘improvisations, streams of consciousness’, that I believe is a great start to its interpretation. Although segmented in 5 long pieces – the longest of which being the closing track, “Transfuse The Phantom”, that runs for 21,5 minutes – the differentiations between them are barely perceptible and the transition is purposefully made as smooth and seamless as possible. While the artist advises us to play at low volume, I’ve found it works better for me at average to low volume; of course that depends on the state you’re in during your listen, and the way you wish to immerse yourself.
The titles are something of an enigma, subtly suggesting an alternate dimension full of light, energy and angelic harmonies. The first track, “Radiant Down” is the first step up this ladder of self-forgetfulness and enlightenment. The musician touches his chords lightly, caressingly, and the serene notes resonate into a clear, purified ether. The minimalistic melody and rhythm unfolds slowly, lingering on the border between ambience and music. It undulates and envelops you like a wave of mild heat, offering that familiar, numbing euphoria of warmth succeeding frost. Then ends as it began with the volume fading out, a technique that the artist uses throughout the whole album, so that the shift doesn’t intrude on the listener’s transcendental state of mind. “Remission” is more dramatic, with higher pitched drones and sharper tones, emanating a colder, more elevated atmosphere. The sound is also a bit fuzzy, approaching the area of shoegaze/ post rock but not quite breaching it. When combined with the reduced presence of melody, this slight grind in the sound gives the impression of a purification or cleansing; a process that denotes a passage, a turning point in the journey. The level of intensity remains unchanged throughout, and the volume gradually decreases for most of the final segment.
“The Dead Air Reprise” is exactly what the title states, namely an alternate take on the basic theme of “Radiant Down”, more hypnotic and expansive than the previous version. The melody is still there, but it is less prominent, and as the title suggests it feels as if it’s being delivered in some kind of etheric vacuum. The notes become drifting, luminous shapes radiating in a light that is almost blinding. Floating in the currents of air like angelic feathers, they carry us away into this realm of supernatural bliss. It functions as a preparation and a gateway. And in this state of ecstasy and purity we come closer to the “Notion Of The Invert”, where every thing is its opposite and definitions or particularities cancel eachother out. We are everything and nothing, and so we become one with the light. This progress is noted by the presence of buzzing drones in the middle segment, and the choice of the artist to use a tighter and ‘heavier’ arrangement. The music seems as if lifting the weight of the soul forwards and upwards, gently urging it to take that ultimate step. In “Transfuse The Phantom” the guitars are finally crossing into post-rock territory, with layers of smooth, reverberating drones lending their now metallic, now ethereal-sounding voices to the performance of this mystical choir. Like the whispers of spirits, they weave a trail of ascension and spiritual illumination. The escalation is here, but it is an even, perfectly arranged one, where there is no room for feelings of uncertainty or doubt. All that exists is joy and fulfilment.
“The Origin Reversal” is masterfully done, admirably inspired and absolutely distinctive drone ambient, representing the trademark sound of an artist who has rightfully gained his place among the greats of contemporary electronic and ambient music. But it is also much more than that. It’s one of those little islands of light and inner truth that have become so scarce in our world. A pure expression of inner peace and contemplation. One that if you put in but the slightest effort to access, will fill you with its bright, invigorating energy so that when your journey has ended, part of you will be renewed. How many artists can truly say that their art can change its audience? Let alone for that change to be of a permanent, lasting nature. “The Origin Reversal” apart from its undeniable musical worth can be a constant companion for inspiration and personal transformation, if you allow it.