Vidna Obmana - The Contemporary Nocturne
2000. Now available from Hypnos Recordings and Belgian ambient master vidnaObmana, The Contemporary Nocturne. This is the second half of the extended work begun last year with The Surreal Sanctuary, and represents perhaps vidnaObmana's most challenging and complex work yet.
Track listing with MP3 clips:
Chasing the odyssee
A platform of sorrow
The gaze in dissonance
The path downward
Purchase for $11.99 on Hypnos Online Store
Reviews"Significant Releases of 2000 list."
--Star's End Radio host Chuck VanZyl
"Best of 2000 list (#09)."
--Bear, The Ambient Hour, WWSP Radio
"25 Best Albums in 2000."
--Marjan Kostadinovski, Soundworld Radio, Macedonia
"(The Surreal Sanctuary and The Contemporary Nocturne reviewed in tandem)
Released at the very beginning and very end of the year, respectively, Vidna Obmana's two companion discs provide perfect bookends to the ambient landscape of 2000. Cerebral, sombre, wintry, and monochrome and yet just as invigorating as the kaleidescopic brilliance characteristic of much of his previous work. Top 10 of 2000."
--Stephen Fruitman on the Ambient Music mailing list
"Together with his previous solo release, The Surreal Sanctuary, this forms a set of deeply atmospheric, brooding textures. Vidna's fascination with the wind instrument called a fujara continues. "The Contemporary Nocturne is the second half of a set of shimmering ambient explorations initiated with 2000's The Surreal Sanctuary. The music from both discs focuses on various instruments (including fujara, E-bow, overtone flute) and textural timbres ("The Gaze In Dissonance" highlights 'four harmonics recycled,' sounding like a chorus of humming, broken glass), and traverses darker territory than most of his other work. "Mute Grief" glistens like moist crystals, like the memory of wind-chimes never touched by wind, before the fujara fumes agitatedly, a grief doused in defiance. The reverberant, brush-stroked fujara of "Duel" falls off the edge of the world into "Chasing The Odyssee," in which the sloping elasticity of the E-bow and electric guitar echoes and disintegrates into the soft black nothingness. This cavernous descent is indicative of much of the swirling ambience on The Contemporary Nocturne, as if Vidna is recording the sound of the moonlit glare as it reflects off of mirrored canyons. Rich, lovely work culled from the outer reaches of ambience, and indicative of the fact that Vidna is not content to just rehash the norm."
--Outburn, JC SMith
"With the collaboration of Jim Cole, Joris de Backer and Steve Roach, vidnaObmana continues with his former work, releasing what could be considered a Second Part of his previous CD "The Surreal Sanctuary", once again emphasizing the avantgarde and atmospheric trends the artist has chosen to follow, with a creativity that can hardly be surpassed. His music, mysterious, full of secret emotions, creates a soundscape of a dark nature, uneasy, nocturnal, and at the same time very complex that will no doubt attract the lovers of experimental music with Ambient, New Instrumental Music and ethnic touches."
--SIGRID BAUMANN, Amazing Sounds
"This release could be considered the second half of a double CD released as two seperate halves, with The Surreal Sanctuary making up the first disc. Once again, Belgian synthesist vidnaObmana has created a series of works that display different instrumental blends, from reverbed, cosmic fujara to electric guitar, harmonicas, double bass, voice and more. "Chasing the odyssee" is a combination of differing guitar timbres, including e-bowed, effected, and chiming sounds that all mesh together to create a perfect atmosphere. Four of the tracks incorporate the strange microtonal wind sounds of the fujara. "A platform of sorrow" is pure genius, a menacing atmosphere backing the mournful fujara drones with a swirl of wind and chain links. 'Mute Grief" uses the small fujara, a much higher pitched instrument that is the forefront for more reverbed electric guitar chiming in a plaintive, dissonant manner. "Revelation" combines Jime Cole's vocals with overtone flutes and fujara, the voice anchoring the abstract soundscaping into a more melodic framework. The final two tracks take up the last half of the CD.
The 19 minute "The path downwards" is a beautiful drone, combining electric guitar and harmonics, a place where the surreal, dissonant and ethereal combine in a strange harmony. It's tonal complexity is astounding, its juxtaposition of tension and relaxation fascinating. The finale "Infinity" combines guitars, double bass and piano, and all are treated into new and luminous sounds. Once more we are in the realms of the utterly abstract, a place where timbral elasticity reigns. With such profound ambiguities, The Contemporary Nocturne is certainly one of the most daring efforts in the genre today, an avant-ambient work on the cutting edge."
--Exposé, Mike McLatchey
'Duel' is literally that, as fujara competes with heavily treated atmospherics, echoing over the top of each other. It is a brief, intense opening, setting the tone for an introspective dark journey. More expansive and reflective is 'Chasing the odyssee,' which is beautifully enhanced by Steve Roach on e-bow guitar. The guitar wails and moans with passion, a bit sad but not overly so. The music subtly shifts, setting a gentle, deliberate pace. 'A platform of sorrow' is less smooth, more disjointed, though not as intense as 'Duel.' Again the fujara dominates. This piece manages to sound sparse and yet busy at the same time. Layers of sounds again compete for dominance, the battle becoming more intense as it continues. 'The gaze in dissonance' shows Vidna Obmana's talent for recycling, taking a source recording and twisting it beyond recognition. In this instance, it is labeled music for four harmonicas, but they are wholly unrecognizable as such. The end result is velvety smooth ambience, equal parts light and dark. It flows unabated into 'Mute grief,' a somber piece as one might expect. The small fujara cries out emphatically in despair. Perhaps the most intense piece emotionally, it is difficult to listen to because it reaches so deep to the core. This is brutally honest, soul-searching music. Jim Cole's overtone voice is immediately evident on 'Revelation,' his wordless vocals adding lush textures to the surrounding shimmering music. As with the music preceding it, this is not intended to brighten your day. The longest and most atmospheric piece follows, 'The path downwards,' 19 minutes of relatively soothing ambient music to counteract some of the intensity in prior tracks. The respite is needed, because the most challenging, experimental piece is the closer, the 14-minute 'Infinity,' which features Joris De Backer on double-bass. The double-bass adds to a feeling of dissonance which permeates. 'Infinity' is a difficult listen, an unsettling close to a deeply personal musical vision. Those looking for something dark, daring and different will find rewards here."
--Phil Derby, SMD
"Vidna Obmana continues to twist the boundaries of whatever the term "contemporary" might mean... and "nocturne" for that matter; often brushed by breezy/raspy fujara blasts, the contemporary nocturne simmers in a surreal darkness which yields unseen-but-heard wonders.
Wispy fujara gusts sputter and resonate in a brief Duel (1:58) with some unknown foe. While written for E-bow and electric guitar (provided by Steve Roach), I seem to hear ghostly brass, sax and wind instruments in the big, rolling waves of sound which are Chasing the odyssee in slow, viscous percolations. Sprinkled with sparkling overtones, A platform of sorrow is built upon fujara and harmonics, evoking more trepidation than sadness. Softer (and not overly "dissonant") textures are explored as The gaze in dissonance hushedly unfolds and drifts into the mysterious realm of Mute grief; tiny guitar plinks scatter and melt, joined by fujara winds amid a hazy backdrop. Jim Cole's rich vocal overtones waver like a human theremin rippling through the glimmering sheen ofRevelation. A slope into amorphous serenity, The path downwards (19:12) billows with rising/falling currents of almost-orchestral stringsounds, which (eventually) begin to evaporate into nothingness. Loopy blurts of Joris De Backer's double-bass erupt from 14.5-minute-long Infinity, accompanied by dreamy curtains of processed guitar and piano
Vidna Obmana's sound has evolved away from earlier tribal efforts, through synthetic organics, and now into the contemporary nocturne, where everday instruments are reprocessed and shaped into fantastic tonal sculptures. An 8.5 for these varying nighttime soundshapes, contemporary or not."
--The AmbiEntrance, David Opdyke
"First off let me say that the man/ artist known as Vidna Obmana has to put together another, altogether fine recording. The Contemporary Nocturne ventures into new areas, which it's hard to believe that there are any left, especially if you consider just how prolific Vidna Obmana has been. Admittedly I'm more interested in Vidna's atmospheric work, and while this recording isn't really a departure from that, it's a bit of different direction. There's far more going on this recording then a lot of his recordings that I really enjoy. But just the same Vidna has managed to capture some very interesting ambiences as well as recreate some very mysterious sound worlds. On this recording you can also catch some work of the Steve Roach playing E-bow guitar as well, Jim (the Spectral Voice) Cole adding some of his trademark vocal ambience. If I was more open-minded to this direction I could better elaborate on what a great recording this is. It's a fine recording indeed, but I want my atmospherics, and there's no one that does it better than atmosphere-master Vidna Obmana. I do have to give credit where credit is due though. Obmana has taken a unique and fresh approach to his new work. I can really appreciate an artist that dares to push their artistic envelope. The Contemporary Nocturne is a fine recording and one that I think that you should look into."
--Matt Borghi, The Organization of Sound
"After attending Vidna Obmana's heartstopping performance in Philadelphia last November, I thought that it would be a long time before I could take such a journey again. I am very familiar with Vidna's music and its psychoactive properties and possibilities. Yet I was totally unprepared for the perpendicular universe in which the soundworlds of The Contemporary Nocturne dwell.
Vidna Obmana, nee Dirk Serries, has been a master synthesist and minimalist for over a decade. His music always provides me with a vehicle for escapes to within my soul and myself. This WONDERFUL CD provides that - again! - And so much more! Dirk's use of offbeat and exotic instruments has become legendary in ambient circles. The set takes those journeys to the next level and beyond. Each piece focuses on a different instrument of construction to create vehicles for out-of-body within spirit journeys. "Revelation," with Jim Cole's stunning overtone singing, is a stroke of pure genius. (I can only imagine the experience of the Hartford concert. It must have been triumphant, to say the least!) The ethereal mix of voice, flute, fujara and electronics is mesmerizing. I found it difficult to write while listening. The pencil and paper just got in the way of the experience!
Thus has it been with the entire disc. This masterwork has quickly become a favorite and a y2k top pick. It immediately ascended to number 2 on my list of the year's best! Vidna Obmana continues to prove himself worthy of Ambient Master status!"
"Having released 24 albums over a career spanning 16 years, Vidna Obmana's music has survived the descriptions: gently atmospheric, post-industrial, tribal ambient, minimalistic, textural, abrasive, isolationist ambient, Fourth World, post-classical, and even traditional. On his latest recording, The Contemporary Nocturne, Vidna Obmana again challanges the musical genre categorizers of the world.
The Contemporary Nocturne was conceived of as the completion of the journey begun with The Surreal Sanctuary. The new album continues to explore the secret emotions that inspire Vidna Obmana's music. The album is paced like a night walk through wilderness terrain. Travellers to these musical hinterlands must take utmost care as to where they place their next step forward.
We begin in the same strange sonic landscape where left at the conclusion of The Surreal Sanctuary. The listener slowly moves through the uncertainty, led by odd vignetts which provide an unsettling focus. Powerful overtone flute solos are processed and mutated into a kind of dark fanfare for the underworld. A reverberant voice hangs sweetly in the dense atmosphere like a benevolent spectre. Before we are consumed by the tension, mystery and darkness, quietly from the distance, layers of complexly harmonic chords, as a steadying hand in the darkness, shift the emotional content and resolve at journey's end.
As The Contemporary Nocturne tests the technological limits of the gear used to realize the unique timbres found on this album, so it also tests the listener's ability to reach beyond themselves and the limits of experience. Part soul's lament, part defining moment, The Contemporary Nocturne will stand much analysis before giving up its secrets to the inquisitive listener."
--Chuck van Zyl, Star's End Radio host
"The Belgian surrealist Vidna Obmana returns with another album of eerie sounds which could be the background for paintings by Dali, Tanguy, or Vidna's countryman Rene Magritte. Here he presents eight very slow, deep-reverbed, drifting pieces using both electric and ethnic instruments. In many of the tracks he plays an Oriental flute, or a South Asian panpipe called a “fujara” which produces microtonal and untuned (to Western ears) tones. On other tracks, the more familiar sound of an electric guitar is stretched and draped out like one of Dali’s limp watches. Supporting all of these are his synthesizer chords, called “harmonics” on this album. (I believe that the description for Track 4, which reads “four harmonicas,” is really “four harmonics.”)
In my opinion Obmana’s music has improved greatly since his association with Steve Roach (who plays an “E-bow guitar” on one track here). Obmana has learned not only the art of placing “floating chords” against more transient sounds, but has also learned to use more varied harmonies. He has also learned from Roach how to pace a piece, not too long or short. But Obmana has never been a “Roach clone” and this album is very definitely his own, especially in his use of dissonant, chromatic melodic lines. This last tendency is especially audible in track 5, “Mute Grief,” where minor seconds played on the Oriental flute are used to create intense emotional power, as if the piece accompanied visions of massacres and terrifying destruction.
And yet Obmana is also capable of brightness and beauty, as in the track following “Grief,” called “Revelation.” This is the only piece on the album that has a human voice, ecstatic wordless overtone-singing over warm, major chords. But even in this relatively happy piece, there are still many moments of dissonance as other sounds, including more flute-playing, shift in and out.
Though the first six tracks have a compelling power, the album in my opinion loses some of its momentum in the two last tracks, which are the longest, the 19-minute “The path downwards” (track 7) and the 15-minute track 8, “Infinity.” This last piece is borrowed from another Obmana album, The Surreal Sanctuary. If I had been the arranger on this album, I would have put the shorter and more comforting “Revelation” at the end, and kept the longer pieces for the middle of the set.
HMGS rating: 7 out of 10"
--Hannah M.G. Shapero, EER
"Vidna's work has become more experimental lately, and thats certainly more evident since his recent numerous collaborations in 1999. One senses a multi-layered approach here: first, there are his trademark minimalist pieces with long sustained drones as the basis and now, melodic creations and improvisational elements of a more unusual nature (by his older standards) are starting to emerge as a presumable desire to explore new and unknown musical teritory."
--Vladimir Jovanovic, Zagreb Croatia
"The Contemporary Nocturne is meant to take up where The Surreal Sanctuary, vidnaObmana's previous Hypnos album, left off, and indeed it does exactly that, presenting the listener with eight pieces in a very similar style.
vidnaObmana's exploration of abstract instrumentation-driven music has some hits and some misses. The guest artists who graced the previous album are here again, although Jim Cole's vocalizations on "Revalation" are not nearly as interesting as his last contribution. Once again, the music has a very austere and distant quality to it, almost academic in nature, but the kind of academia that observes and debates questions of spirituality and transcendence.
The Contemporary Nocturne wraps up with a longer version of "Infinity," the first track from The Surreal Sanctuary, an appropriate ending for what was always conceived as a pair of albums that were to go together."
"First off let me say that the man/ artist known as Vidna Obmana has to put together another, altogether fine recording. The Contemporary Nocturne ventures into new areas, which it's hard to believe that there are any left, especially if you consider just how prolific Vidna Obmana has been. Admittedly I'm more interested in Vidna's atmospheric work, and while this recording isn't really a departure from that, it's a bit of different direction. There's far more going on this recording then a lot of his recordings that I really enjoy. But just the same Vidna has managed to capture some very interesting ambiences as well as recreate some very mysterious sound worlds. On this recording you can also catch some work of the Steve Roach playing E-bow guitar as well, Jim (the Spectral Voice) Cole adding some of his trademark vocal ambience. If I was more open-minded to this direction I could better elaborate on what a great recording this is. It's a fine recording indeed, but I want my atmospherics, and there's no one that does it better than atmosphere-master Vidna Obmana.
I do have to give credit where credit is due though. Obmana has taken a unique and fresh approach to his new work. I can really appreciate an artist that dares to push their artistic envelope. The Contemporary Nocturne is a fine recording and one that I think that you should look into."
--The Organization of Sound, Matt Borghi
"Our Belgian friend Vidna Obmana keeps maturing. More and more I like his synthesis between experimental music and synthesizer music. On his new CD, the best parts are for me the shorter pieces in which the experimental side prevails. Vidna explores the sound of the fujaro, e-bows or harmonics in beautiful overlapping pieces of atmospheric sounds, but never reaches for cliche. There is a little bit of nastyness in his music to prevent that it will end up in the faceless new age bin. The three long pieces at the end of the CD are for me borderline pieces: here the cliche is approached very narrow andVidna Obmana should be careful not to cross that line. I am sure he is aware of this too and that he will come with more adventurous music in the future. Unearthly music."
--Frans DeWaard, Vital E-Zine