POLAND ZOHARUM ZOHAR159-2 3 x CD (2018)
A recent quip by Jim O’Rourke that ‘pretty much all ambient music is major 7th chords’ did leave me wondering whether ambient reviews are still necessary, especially when the artist openly enthuses about Brian Eno’s influence on their music. But the present example – an artistic detour that began in the early 1980s – indulges in enough free-play with the Eno-signifier to argue that The Trilogy – a 180 degree turn into the unknown – is more Oblique Strategy than homage; which is not to say imitation is absent (any one of the three parts can cut a decent Eno-impersonation); just that there seems to be a justification for it.
Vidna Obmana aka Belgian industrialist Dirk Serries was active in the DIY tape scene from the early ‘80s, issuing masses of low-count noise releases and touring internationally under his own steam like a mobile factory. However, the account of the time details a fateful encounter with Eno’s Discreet Music that enchanted him to the expressive possibilities of ambient music. Still full of the same anger that had fuelled his modest artistic success up to that point, Serries’ subtle new direction was an act of self-rebellion that eliminated his harshness altogether, but not the feelings behind it, culminating in these three albums of textural explorations on a particular mood, designed partly to subvert his erstwhile appetite for destruction. It didn’t temper his productivity though: the size of his subsequent discography under that name puts all but Dominick Fernow to shame.
After all of that though, there’s little to say about the music itself: no (obvious) major 7th chords, and each part is a minimal study within compact parameters; a micro exhibition unto itself, with each piece framed in heavy silence. Even Tobias Fischer’s detailed background story offers only sparing descriptions of these as ‘cold, distant brushstrokes (Passage in Beauty)… a warmer, more inviting journey (Shadowing in Sorrow) and the conclusion (Ending Mirage) realised as a sort of fusion between the two with some new elements thrown in’. Groundbreaking chiefly in a personal sense, The Trilogy‘s added value is in the rigor with which Serries approaches his materials – that of a capable newcomer methodically honing his voice while new discoveries remain possible. Recommended for when you’ve had enough of Eno, but do make sure you crank up the volume.