Vidna Obmana

In the more muted, introspective and minimalist lands of old-school ambient, Vidna Obmana is a presence to be reckoned with. If you like the cerebral electro-acoustic soundscapes of American artists like Steve Roach and Robert Rich, Vidna Obmana albums have a similar appeal. The music traverses industrial noise, lovely Eno-esque minimalism, environmental music, dark tribal ambience and ghostly extended drones.

artist:
Vidna Obmana

country of origin:
Belgium

style(s):
Ambient, environmental, avant-garde, dark ambient

decades active:
90's - 00's

essential releases:

  • Ending Mirage (1992, ND Records/Projekt)
  • Soundtrack To The Aquarium (1993, Hypnos)
  • The River Of Appearance (1996, Projekt)
  • Crossing The Trail (1998, Projekt)

Reviewed by Mike G

In the more muted, introspective and minimalist lands of old-school ambient, Vidna Obmana (the now defunct solo project of Belgian composer Dirk Serries) is a presence to be reckoned with. If you like the cerebral electro-acoustic soundscapes of American artists like Steve Roach and Robert Rich, Vidna Obmana albums have a similar appeal. His music traverses industrial noise, lovely Eno-esque minimalism, environmental music, dark tribal ambience and ghostly extended drones. Many fans and even the composer himself on occasion have pointed to the "personal" nature of his music but that's actually not a very helpful word. How can music produced by intelligent humans be anything but? Perhaps "emotional" is a better term, given that his themes are sometimes introspective musings on love, sorrow and grief rather than impressions of external environments.

In 2009, Serries retired the Vidna Obmana name, deciding the project had run its natural course. Fortunately for us, his beguiling music remains. I can recommend a handful of creative high points from the 1990's for newcomers; beyond that there is a massive catalogue of other releases to explore.

His early 90's music is a bit like a collection of static paintings in a gallery, with each piece being like a separate room and the only real movement being the viewer slowly entering, looking at the picture, and then exiting the space. Containing very little actual development within each track, this fascinating music is formed from abstract, morphing layers of drones that cluster and separate in slow-motion, existing in a space somewhere between tonal and atonal. Of these early albums Ending Mirage (1992) and Soundtrack To The Aquarium (1993) have the most shape to them and are a good place to start for fans of the style.

Vidna Obmana albums from the mid-90's onwards offers greater diversity. Tribal experiments are common, and so are warmer sounds where the strands coalesce into something resembling major and minor chords.

The masterful and generally beatless River Of Appearance (1996) is astonishingly good. It's based around the familiar slow arcs and clusters of his earlier works but now with a richer and more tonal sound. The enveloping widescreen strings are joined in places by ghostly flute, tentative piano figures or tinkling bell-like tones. It's a mystic, tender and deeply trance-inducing album that ranks alongside Steve Roach's Dreamtime Return (1989) and Biosphere's Substrata (1997) as one of the great deep ambient recordings of the late 20th Century.

Crossing The Trail (1998) emphasises a tribal side to the richer sound first heard on River Of Appearance. It's more in the environmental ambience mould, laden with delicate location sounds from nature and a myriad of slow percussive grooves that suggest mysterious ritual without resorting to any kind of overstatement. Composers like Roach and Rich may have got there first, but Crossing The Trail is a fine example of the tribal ambient form.

There's also plenty of darker tribal ambient in composer's repertoire, a sub-genre which I often find too atonal and unrelentingly grim. Although I can't recommend these personally, dark ambient fans highly regard the Steve Roach collaboration Well Of Souls (1995) as well as The Spiritual Bonding (1994) and the Dante-inspired horrors of Spore (2003). Vidna Obmana compilation albums are many and often contain previously unreleased material. None are truly representative - for an artist as prolific as this how could they be - so be sure you hear some of his classics first.

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