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vidnaObmana Gets Experimental

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After decades as an ambient pioneer, vidnaObmana is exploring new directions in sound. Some are fragile, others are quite strident, even jarring. All, though, exemplify an experimental determination, a desire to seek new sonic paths for creative expression.

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VIDNAOBMANA: An Opera for Four Fusion Works (Act 4: The Bowing Harmony) (CD on Hypnos)

This release from 2007 offers 43 minutes of haunting vocal effects laced with atmospheric demeanor.

Joining vidnaObmana (whose instruments include synthesizer, electric guitar, ebow, and infinite recycling) is Steven Wilson (from Porcupine Tree) on vocals.

Surprisingly, the core of this instrumental music is the vocals. Limited to non-lyrical expressions, the vocal threads comprise the album's heart and soul. While one track features basically pure voice, other pieces utilize layering to generate choral effects in which the voice overlaps and interweaves with itself, creating haunting oral multiples of the dreamy sighs.

Meanwhile, the electronics are generally minimal and extremely delicate. Ambient textures waft in the far distance, while bell-like tones oscillate in the midground (the frontal area belonging primarily to the lilting vocals). Insectile nickering accompanies one track, establishing a miniature rhythm track. Vibrating oscillations vitalize another song.

Amid waves of pulsating vocals, different auxiliary electronics are employed to lend background body to the choral arrangements. With each subsequent track, the vocals are subjected to progressively more complex treatments, transforming them into wholly unique resonances.

With the fourth (and culminate) track, the experiment gets the opportunity to truly flourish in a long-form span of 24 minutes. Darkly airy tonalities generate a buzzing backdrop. Guitar strumming wanders in and out of the mix, gradually become more obvious and ultimately striving to fuse with the astral vocals. The steadfast harmonic vocals breath softly, taking an eternity to rise from a whisper to a resolute presence. Strange sounds creep out of the shadows to achieve shrill-but-remote definition.

These compositions are actually much denser than ascribed by the above descriptions. While retaining a gentle flavor, the vocal layers blend superbly with the languid electronics, achieving a sultry thickness that grows like a gathering fog until it dominates the stage. At the same time, the music possesses a definite meditative flair of glorious depth.

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FEAR FALLS BURNING & NADJA: Fear Falls Burning & Nadja (CD on Conspiracy Records)

This release from 2007 offers 60 minutes of crafted intensity.

Fear Falls Burning is vidnaObmana (playing processed guitar and pedal effects), and Nadja is Aidan Baker (playing guitar and drums) and Leah Buckareff (playing bass).

In marked contrast to the above release (and quite different from any other vidnaObmana releases), the first half of this album is harsh and aggressive. The second half explores a more restrained exploration of intensity.

Grinding guitars generate clouds of abrasive noise. Blending sustains and feedback and just plain orneryness, the guitars achieve a near oppressive presence right out of the gate, filling the air with gritty chords that smolder with a disposition that displays little trace of melody and just goes for the jugular. Piercing dins vie for prominence amid this cacophony, each toothy outcry muscling each other aside in an effort to be the dominant bedlam.

Scraped strings and scalding notes clash with careful arrangement, providing agitated punctuation to the overall grind.

Lurking in this incessant growl is percussion. Initially, the drums seem too intimidated to strive for rhythms, instead contributing beats that are chaotic. But as the music progresses, hesitant tempos accrue enough courage to attribute rhythms to the ominous flow.

Mired somewhere in all this is a bass, but it's indulging in the same obstinate harshness as the guitars, hiding its presence by sustaining notes for impossible stretches until approximating a car crash that's been slowed down until it's unrecognizable by civilized ears.

Meanwhile, the second half abandons the attack mode for a more sedate approach to tension. The guitars loosen their growl and even allow a few coherent notes to slip by. The bass rumbles with conventional earthiness. The drums exhibit a remote presence with determined rhythms.

The first two compositions are a testament to intensity. And yet, there's a dreaminess inherent in their relentless delivery. These songs are anthems for an age of oppression and suffering, sounds that evoke pain and a state of being beyond agony. The constant din produces a grit-teeth euphoria.

While the last pair of tracks pursue softer models, creating tension through extreme restraint. These pieces smolder with passion in the form of molten sound that explores the realm beyond the flesh. Their target is a psyche stunned into a coma by the earlier songs. Their goal is the reconstruction of self, building consciousness from the bottom up. They seethe with a sense of vast anticipation of something wonderful about to be unleashed. Expect a return to the prior intensity for the finale.

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CONTINUUM: 2 (CD on Soleilmoon Recordings)

This release from 2007 offers 59 minutes of cerebral brutality.

Continuum is Steven Wilson and Dirk Serries (aka vidnaObmana). The instruments utilized on this recording are: electric and bass guitars, drones, and processing.

The CD features three tracks.

In the first, ominous tones ooze from a dark recess and cluster to form a dire backdrop for a bevy of guttural sounds. The latter are mostly generated by guitars reverberating in a particularly gritty manner. Although a tide of unearthly noises rises to immerse the entire morass, the guitars remain dominant and demonstrative.

These guitar chords strike with emphatic ferocity, leaping forth to scar and maim the audience. The notes growl and seethe with unbridled tyranny, their authority accentuated by being dragged out by applied sustains. So forceful are the expressions, they leave the listener debilitated, drained, brutalized. As things grow progressively intense, the auxiliary sounds accrete their own feral power, resulting in a crashing crescendo that seems to go on forever.

The second track doles out grating tonalities that coalesce around spooky whispering. Piercing pitches punctuate the mix, like magnesium needles burning through solid steel. An ascendant presence of processed guitar adds severity to the already overt air of stress, rising to command the piece with a bestial roar.

The last piece explores a more sedate posture with portentous atmospherics and funereal drums. Scratchings lend an eerie undercurrent. When the guitars appear, their entrance is sudden and shocking. While still crafted to be guttural, the snarling strings indulge in more variance here, distorting the notes to generate a disquieting mood. Notes are created, then bent and distorted. The truly amazing aspect is how the grinding tuneage continues to accrue intensity long past a point where tolerance has been exhausted.

These compositions are hardly for the weak-of-heart. Their ponderous structure revolves around the studied application of savagery to each chord. Vigor and lethality increase with every passing moment. While melody is present, these tunes are not the kind you can hum afterward, should you survive listening to the music. Surprisingly, there is little hostility in these songs. Their intensity is carefully designed to instill awe more so than to frighten.

The CD comes in a DVD package which includes a set of three prints of the cover photography by Lasse Hoile.

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