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The Versatility of VidnaObmana's Ambience

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VidnaObmana has long been a prominent figure in the international evolution of ambient music. His music stems from musique concrete origins, steeped in abstract noise and eerie electronics, and has evolved into a mastery of haunting passages flavored by processed flutes and muffled percussives. His collaborations with Steve Roach are ethereal masterpieces.

VidnaObmana is still growing as an artist, exploring new territories and pushing the envelope of what is expected from ambient compositions. The following exemplify some of these new directions, along with documenting some of his earlier sonic paths.

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VIDNAOBMANA: Noise/Drone Anthology 1984-1989 (CD on Ikon/ Projekt)

This release from 2005 features 74 minutes of atmospheric drone music.

These pieces are selected from a variety of obscure (and long unavailable) cassette releases from the late Eighties. While VidnaObmana’s music later evolved into haunting atmospherics, this material displays a noisier aspect of his dark expressions.

Generally, the structure of this music is minimalist, yet grating, utilizing harsh sounds to establish dark realms of dire anguish. Metallic electronic textures are generated and tormented, producing unearthly tones of great unease. Tension is tantamount in this tuneage, as desperate ambience strives to convey an inescapable doom. When shriller sounds appear, they communicate that same anxiety, often erupting with cybernetic hostility.

There is one previously unreleased track (9 minutes of live improv with PBK from 1989). This piece exemplifies the slowburn property, indulging in atonal electronic noise swirling amid a dense cloud of ominous fog. Hoarsely treated vocal utterances drift throughout like hellish harbingers, growing increasingly imminent.

Most of these tracks are short (between 3-6 minutes), forcing the compositions to get swiftly to the point (even if that point is buried in fog).

A tasty if unsettling (but isn’t that the point?) glimpse at the birthing days of modern musique concrete.

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VIDNAOBMANA: Legacy (CD on Release Records)

This CD from 2005 features 71 minutes of music that forges a unique and thrilling bridge between ambience and mutant rock.

Joining Vidna on this release are: Steven Wilson (from Porcupine Tree), Paul van den Berg, Martina Verhoeven, and Steve von Till.

The first track is short and consists of a recitation underlain by drifting tones.

Things get somewhat more overt with the second piece, in which a steadfast percussion track is boosted by a rising tide of processed resonance that seethes with ghostly verve.

Hesitant rhythms and tormented flutes permeate the next composition. A mounting tide of strangely afflicted tonalities provide a desolate backdrop for this sonic melancholy.

The fourth piece blends soft synthetic beats with eerie atmospherics.

Tentative ambience of a dark nature leads to a subtle tension in the next piece, as pittering tempos churn a pool of unnatural sounds. With each passing moment, the drama increases, reaching a subdued crescendo of oily majesty.

The sixth track combines grinding electronics with rhythms generated by abnormal sounds. The result is an enticing glimpse of sonic pain that burns long after it has finished.

Next, we are delivered into a subterranean ascension that mixes a haunting soundscape with pitches that strive to become shrill outcries. Treated guitar provides an uneasy milieu of disturbing resonance.

The final composition features Steven Wilson’s guitar soaring to stratospheric altitudes for exquisite brilliance. This generally traditional performance fits excellently with Vidna’s moodily accreting tonalities, conspiring to provide an ecstatic peek at heaven.

These descriptions do little justice to convey the astounding new terrain vidnaObmana is exploring herein. The music is chilling in its evocative quality, gripping in its courageous creativity. This is a legacy of an as yet unrealized genre in which ambient music collides with experimental rock.

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FEAR FALLS BURNING: He Spoke in Dead Tongues (CD on Ikon/ Projekt)

This release from 2005 features 147 minutes of dark guitar soundscapes.

Fear Falls Burning is a new identity for VidnaObmana, wherein he explores the realm of ambiently processed guitar.

Do not expect airy expressions of optimism here. These soundscapes are dark and surly and designed to disturb.

While the overall sonic disposition of this tuneage is one of eerily manipulated deep tones (bordering on drone), there are instances of harshly jarring chords that growl with dangerous vibrations and seem to hang in the air like lions unwilling to leave. With each track, VidnaObmana explores wholly different sounds and divergent moods, revealing an inventive plethora of unnatural harmonics.

Frequently, the notes are minimal and repeated with infinite patience, generating a surging twilight that counts its way into darker terrain with ghostly determination. Other times, intricate chords are compressed, literally folded back upon themselves until the result is an spasmodic tremble that has grown a thick covering of electric fur. Periodic auxiliary sounds penetrate the soft din, lending the guttural outcries of a secondary beast to the roiling miasma. One track approximates a chorus of guitars, all forced to exhibit their mutations through subdued manners. Another revolves around echoing pulsations evocative of an irregularly chiming machine core.

Both discs feature lengthy and more pensive pieces (33 and 34 minutes long). The one on disc 1 employs expressions that wobble and wind, often resembling the pitch of wine glasses. This composition is more spectral than fearful. Meanwhile, disc 2’s epic opus involves more hesitant sentiments, as if the soundscape is suspicious of the audience. Both pieces, though, are conducive to introspective explorations, albeit sending the listener down reasonably dark paths of contemplation.

Imagine if you gene spliced Glenn Branca and Robert Fripp and then scared the crap out of this newborn entity.

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STEVE ROACH & VIDNAOBMANA: Somewhere Else (Ascension of Shadows 1) (CD on Projekt)

Released in a limited edition in 1999, the 3 CD set “Ascension of Shadows” has become a prized collector’s item for Roach/Obmana fans. This CD is disc 1 of that release, offering 71 minutes of murky ambience, performed live in a Belgium studio in 1997. (The remaining discs will be reissued soon.)

From the titles involved in this recording, one can assume that darkness plays a vital role, and that those shadows stem from a foreign realm.

There’s only one gigantic track on this CD, and it begins (as one might expect) with a slowburn opening, exhibiting patience and deliberation as the ethereal electronic textures filter into being and coalesce into a soothing harmonic flow.

Peripheral mists draw close, caressing the core soundscape with their feathery disposition. Distant spirits sigh, announcing their imminent proximity like seaside sirens calling to passing ships. By the time they arrive in force, their outcries are carefully subdued, blending perfectly with the placid temperament of the music.

The ebb and flow of these tonalities generates a tranquil tension that hints at deeper secrets.

There are no faint rhythms this time, and if any instruments other than machinery are employed herein, their resonance is too processed to be discernible.

In all honesty, there’s not much murkiness involved in this music. The tonalities are crisp and often radiant, rising to a steadfast glory before gradually melting into the next array of sonorous textures.

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For more information, check out these websites: VidnaObmana, Fear Falls Burning, Steve Roach.

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