CD Review

Vidna Obmana – “Anthology 1984 – 2004”

By Marcus Pan

AnthologyUnlike other artists of the silently cacophonous and experimental genre, Vidna Obmana at least attempts to apply some homanesque qualities to his music with varying results. The latest Vidna Obmana release, Anthology 1984-2004 covering twenty years of music including some unreleased studio cut material, will have avante-garde fans familiar with Obmana's work chomping at the bit as a quality addition to their collection.

Released on the Projekt label of Sam Rosenthal, a darkwave and avant-garde music art powerhouse for many years, the quality of the release is expectantly excellent and elegant. The jacket art is minimal yet striking and the music is quite the same creating a usually dark and moody atmosphere that tends towards a natural state of being. Strange that I somewhat dig this album after being inundated with experimental work from labels such as Triumvirate(1) which I quite abhorred and ended up farting off to Ray Van Horn, Jr. and DJ Mortimer Steel for the most part. This one however, considering the notoriety of Vidna Obmana and Projekt as well, I decided to delve into myself. That, and because it's a great example of avant-garde: minimal yet striking.

The opening Shallow Faith sets the mood for the dark aurality to come by applying lightly tapping beats that are obviously humanesque, but somehow natural in sound. This rattling keeps the track moving forward while the background slices remain drowsy, creating an interesting juxtaposition of sound. Second Praise for Last Hope is also drowsily moody, but lacks the tapping beat. The track breathes life somehow with the static-laden breakdowns of vocal mayhem that creates split-second nudges out of the mood of lazy Purgatory.

Before we go on, let's talk about Vidna Obmana himself. Meaning "optical illusion," Vidna Obmana is Belgian composer Dirk Serries. Dirk joined with Projekt in 1993, following numerous Euro-label releases mostly on cassette format. What followed with Projekt began with collections of multiple-CD box sets including Memories Compiled 1 and 2, The Trilogy and culminating with Ascension of Shadows prior to Anthology. For twenty years now, Vidna Obmana has fluidly moved from form to form, creating sometimes dark, sometimes grating and sometimes soothing music soundscapes that is experimental and showcases a talent of subtle manipulation that initially reminded me of Joe Renzetti(2).

Track three, The Noctural Air, is a fine example of this fluidity I mention with a watery and flowing track that takes a break from the darker airs of the previous two and smoothly rises the bar of mood up a few notches to keep listeners to Anthology from falling into a bitter madness of depression and anxiety. But the static-laden damnation of Ecstacy, sounding more like a badly wired and blown out speaker system than anything else, rattles your head out of the soothing sensations. Thumbs down on Ecstacy. It just doesn't come across as musical and instead grates your senses. This could be due to the track's age – Ecstacy is one of Dirk's earliest compositions, from 84/85, and when compared to the 95/96 The Noctural Air or the 03/04 Shallow Faith clearly shows the progression and maturing of the artist. In short, Ecstacy is simply not enjoyable and makes you not enjoy it for nearly seven minutes.

Soft and subtle, Kindred Spirits eases in next to Ecstacy and washes away the deluge of staticy destruction. Smoothly applied chorales and lightly pattering waterfalls clears the mind of the dirty X left behind. Remaining minimal yet attaining a feeling of glory and release as it grows steadily stronger and engaging, Kindred Spirits is easily a highlight to Anthology.

And so it goes. The final result is a smattering of early released and hard to find tracks as well as some you couldn't find previously at all. Anthology 1984-2004 is a nice addition to any avant-garde connoisseur. There's some jagged edges in here, but even if you trip on them you'll typically find yourself falling into smooth and relaxing whirlpools of subtly manipulated sounds. Vidna Obmana offers up a brilliant dish of his work over the past twenty years with a release that is sure to create new fans interested in seeking out more of his music after given some pleasant introductions to various periods in Dirk's two decade composing history.

(1) These releases were heavily reviewed in Legends #143 with varying results.
(2) Joe recently kicked out Aniron, which was reviewed in Legends #144.
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