TEXTURA reviews EPITAPH

“Rumour has it that Epitaph is Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries’ final release of vintage ambient material—a shame if true because the double-CD set might well be the most perfectly realized collection by him in that style. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for ending a project on a high, one that leaves listeners regretting the absence of future installments. His reason for ending the project isn’t due to disenchantment, by the way; Serries simply wants to apply his energies towards, in his words, new sonic alliances.

He’s gone through a number of transitions during almost four decades of public music-making. In the early ‘80s, industrial-influenced recordings were issued under the Vidna Obmana moniker until he retired the moniker in 2005 and began issuing guitar drones under the Fear Falls Burning name. When that project ended in 2012, Serries continued releasing ambient guitar-oriented music as part of his Microphonics project before gravitating towards the free jazz stylings associated with his A New Wave Of Jazz label.

He exercises a remarkable degree of control in his shaping of the tracks, each of which was improvised live, Serries alone and using nothing more than a guitar and a handful of effects. In ten pieces totaling ninety minutes, tones rise and fall in waves-like formation, their poised, graceful unfurl administered with an exceptional degree of sensitivity to dynamics, volume, and tempo. Each is a slow-burning meditation that while sourced from guitar eschews the harshness the instrument is capable of generating, and it requires little effort to succumb to the considerable allure of a representative piece such as “The Nebulous Chords” when its majestic soar is so capable of elevating the listener to its non-earthbound heights.

The material shares certain properties with Fripp’s solo guitar soundscapes, specifically in how layers overlap and in doing so collectively form a lulling drift, but Serries’ sound is in no way imitative: whatever similarity there is is one rooted in general approach than sonority. Certainly there is a metallic quality to the billowing cathedrals he produces, but the effect is harmonious and smooth as opposed to atonal and abrasive. Differences between the pieces are subtle, so much so that the ten register more like variations on a theme instead of separate compositions. That’s hardly off-putting, however; if anything, it feels right that, with its parts fitting so seamlessly together, Epitaph should encourage the listener to experience the recording as a singular, summative statement.” Textura – Canada

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