chihei hatakeyama & dirk serries

Igloo Magazine Reviews

HAKOBUNE & DIRK SERRIES – Obscured By Beams Of Sorrow (CD, White Paddy Mountain)
CHIHEI HATAKEYAMA – The Storm Of Silence (CD, Glacial Movements)

“As Vidna Obmana (“optical illusion” in Serbo-Croatian), Belgian mega-artist Dirk Serries released nearly seventy albums of original material, creeping up from noisy roots to a remarkable, idiosyncratic and gentle, clinging ambient ivy, between the mid-eighties and the mid-2000s. Often mentioned in the same breath as Steve Roach, Alio Die and Robert Rich (he did indeed do a lot of work with Roach, most memorably perhaps Well of Souls or Cavern of Sirens, while the whole crowd showed up for The Spiritual Bonding), likely due to the tribal or “eco” element not uncommonly characterizing their work at the time, Vidna Obmana’s pieces had, if I may tender an opinion, a lighter touch, in both senses of the word, than those of his talented colleagues. The beauty of a Vidna Obmana track like “The Angelic Appearance” lay in its slow growth, Serries’ uncanny ability to make music sound like watching time-lapse photography.

In May 2009, he definitively retired the name and began a series of experimental projects concentrating on “an exercise in minimalism [that] turned into a musical meditation on purity and subdued power” (Fear Falls Burning), and on “microphonics,” a kind of jazz, and exquisite ambient in trio form with 3 Seconds of Air.

Lately he has reemerged as an ambient artist under his given name. Although the present reviewer hasn’t been following his output with a magnifying glass, Obscured by Beams of Sorrow, recorded with Hakobune, would seem to be the first fruit of this latest seed. It is all in a very minor chord, slow as molasses in winter, but with strings singing and the drift we recognize from both Vidna Obmana and Hakobune‘s own, cloudy guitar work. A small dissonance makes you blanch on “Harrowing Surface,” but the smoother lines wrangle like eels in love. “Nocturnal Pillars of Solitude” has a bit more of an edge, while “Obscured,” also delicately rough around the edges, has a soft and creamy center in which to sink.

On the same label, Chihei Hatakeyama’s indispensable White Paddy Mountain, comes the boss’ own Five Dreams, inspired by a series of dreams and a novel, recorded piecemeal quite a few years ago. “January” is ecclesiastically appealing, angels with dirty wings, but angels nonetheless. “April,” reminds me so much of classic Vidna Obmana, although it grows so tiny, so perfect, like a well-tended bonsai tree. In “February,” the snow begins to melt and fall on the domed crowns of little Buddha bells. In “May,” Bach’s stately harpsichord is warped into a queasy nightmare for Martin Luther. Despite its motley genesis, Five Dreams is perhaps one of Hatakeyama’s deepest and best albums ever. Which is saying a lot.

Interesting to note that Hatakeyama and Serries have just released a complementary, oxymoronic collaborative album on Glacial Movements, The Storm of Silence, great, big, airy blue inside an unpoppable soap bubble.” Igloo Magazine – USA


The Storm Of Silence

Japanese artist Chihei Hatakeyama (founder and owner of White Paddy Mountain) and Dirk Serries collaborated last year and now the Italian Glacial Movements is releasing their album on January 16th 2016.  The album is already receiving praise from the press, see a couple of  the reviews below.  In Dirk Serries’ own words :
The Japanese/Belgium connection came in pair. Almost simultaneously i worked on two collaborations. The first with Hakobune released on Chihei Hatakeyama’s White Paddy Mountain was just finished while i started working on sources for Chihei. Apart from my friendship and touring adventures with Mono, i never had solid contacts in Japan. But working with Hakobune and Chihei Hatakeyama this changed rapidly. Both collaborations were created quite spontaneous and fast. Hardly any conversations back and forth but just communicating through sound. In comparison to my work with Hakobune, Chihei’s approach to my sources were different, more isolated, perhaps colder and distant.  Almost like something you witnessed in the distance on the horizon, something less concrete and hard to define. A feeling that solidified when i hooked up with Alessandro Tedeschi to talk about a possible release. The concept became instant, my work with Chihei is one for the winter. Amidst the icy landscapes, the isolation and desolate space. When nature becomes almost super linear, less expressive in color but with equal strength and severity. Glacial Movements became the safe haven for our album, The Storm Of Silence is that soundtrack.”



“Almost never, I should say, today’s music linked to the “pedestrian ambient” movement manages to whisper words of wisdom under the guise of genuinely poignant frequencies. The syrupy conformability of thousands of half-baked releases in this area has been lamented time and again by this reviewer, and that litany of too-easy-to-see reasons won’t be reiterated here. Now, let’s suspend the curfew for a few instants of reflection about a rarity, namely a good album of quiet, cloudy emanations by two masters of the game. The Storm Of Silence begs to differ from the mass of incompetent drone peddlers, fake Buddhists, shape worshippers and Eno clones poisoning the ionosphere. It’s full of consonance, but not boring; it’s relaxing, yet its slow-motion reminiscences dig deep, often in unsuspectable ways. A long distance collaboration needing no detailed description, as timeless chordal superimpositions, accumulating strata of infinitely stretched strings (guitars and piano definitely belong among the basic constituents) and electronic sources restore some order in the nervous system’s chaotic traffic, putting the mind in a peaceful condition right away. A warm embrace lulling to a semiconscious oblivion, the whole might go on for hours in this quietly worried evening. And that’s exactly what is going to happen.” Touching Extremes – Italy

“Il blu non è certo un colore “nuovo” nelle scelte estetiche di Glacial Movements. Lo si è visto più volte predominare nella scala cromatica degli artwork, sempre curatissimi, delle uscite dell’etichetta romana. Chiamato quasi sempre ad accompagnare scatti evocativi, da prospettive anche molto diverse, da trait d’union dell’intero progetto discografico, intuibile facilmente già dal suo nome. Mai come nell’immagine di copertina di “The Storm Of Silence”, però, il ricorso era stato tanto marcato e dominante, al punto tale da uniformare e rendere autenticamente indistinguibili il Mare Artico e il cielo sopra di esso al crepuscolo.

Il biglietto da visita in questione è forse la maniera migliore per approcciare l’opera congiunta di Dirk Serries e Chihei Hatakeyama, un disco frutto dell’incontro coeso di due artisti vicini nell’approccio alla materia atmosferica quanto lontanissimi per estetica e prospettiva. L’impressionismo del maestro belga, ultimamente in grado di guadagnare una costante evanescenza (fino a raggiungere lidi autenticamente free-impro negli ultimi anni) diviene così la sostanza-base, soggetta alle cure parnassiane e votate all’intimismo del collega giapponese, che ha agito a posteriori tagliando, arginando, limitando e dando forma ai flussi di coscienza di Serries.

Il risultato sono quattro suite in cui la dimensione percettiva e quella visiva riescono a convivere in perfetto equilibrio, quattro racconti in grado di trasmettere immagini e generare/riprodurre sensazioni inerenti ad altrettanti luoghi geografici. Il gelo che sarebbe lecito aspettarsi è così sostituito in “Kulde” da un calore armonico rassicurante: al paesaggio in senso stretto è qui preferita la sua contemplazione appassionata (e non spassionata come, per esempio, in Thomas Köner), densa di significati e filtrata attraverso le soggettività dei due artisti. La dimensione temporale si assottiglia e abbandona la coscienza, “smarritasi” nei luoghi e identificatasi in essi.

“Uvaer” e soprattutto “Fryst” enfatizzano ulteriormente il “calore” attraverso sottili strati di archi sintetici che implementano a tratti le armonie del fondale sonoro, fornendo una nuova tematizzazione dell’idea di gelo e dei suoi luoghi emblematici. Non è qui narrato lo smarrimento dell’osservatore in un non-luogo, la musica non è pensata “su misura” ad esso né è il luogo stesso (l’ambiente) ad essere protagonista, evocato e costituito. Semmai, la simbiosi avviene appunto tra soggetti e spazio, con diverse tonalità emotive il cui ultimo stadio è la malinconia di “Hvit” di fronte all’abbandono, alla ri-separazione, alla fine del viaggio congiunto.

Fra i tasselli più densi e significativi del discorso Glacial Movements, “The Storm Of Silence” contribuisce a consolidarne l’estetica, alla vigilia di un decimo anniversario che merita di essere festeggiato e celebrato nella maniera migliore. Trova spazio in un simile discorso più di quanto non ne incontri nei percorsi dei relativi artisti, così diversi e distanti fra loro e proprio per questo così lontani da un’opera che li vede, autenticamente, farsi tutt’uno. E dunque non-essere sé stessi, reinventarsi, re-immaginarsi. Com’è re-immaginato, una volta di più, quel rapporto tra suono, (non)-luogo e uomo che continua ad affascinare l’ambient music contemporanea.” Ondarock – Italy

“Dirk Serries has issued a staggering number of releases, many featuring the Belgian-based guitarist playing solo and many in collaboration with others, whether it be a single partner or group. Recently, Serries entered into a somewhat new phase in his career by collaborating with the Japanese musicians Takahiro Yorifuji (aka Hakobune) and Chihei Hatakeyama on separate projects. Obscured by Beams of Sorrow, Serries’ collaboration with the former, appeared only months ago on Hatakeyama’s White Paddy Mountain, and now Hatakeyama and Serries team up for their own joint effort The Storm of Silence, this one on Glacial Movements.

On the release’s inner sleeve, Serries differentiates between the projects in characterizing Hatakeyama’s approach to his sources as “more isolated, perhaps colder and distant,” aspects that make the recording a natural fit for the wintry aesthetic of Glacial Movements. But to these ears, the differences between the two recordings are less pronounced: like Obscured by Beams of Sorrow, The Storm of Silence presents four extended settings, and in a manner similar to his pairing with Yorifuji, the sounds produced by Serries and Hatakeyama blend so seamlessly the recording could pass for the work of a single artist. With both sets presenting softly shimmering dronescapes, it would be hard to imagine two releases being more complementary in sound and sensibility than these two.

The ambient floodgates open wide during “kulde” when blurry, guitar-generated washes billow slowly in the distance. Yet while one could conceivably characterize the sound as cold, it could just as easily be described as warm in the way the soft cloud-like shapes wrap themselves around the listener. The settings are becalmed and still, but they also exude a subtle majesty in the way the sound swells as a given track progresses. It’s an effect that might be likened to the wondrous feeling one has when confronted by the natural splendour of a glacier or mountain. Throughout these quietly grandiose constructions, glassy tones and hazy washes intermingle like reflections in a hall of mirrors. Admittedly there’s little on The Storm of Silence that hasn’t been done already in similar contexts; that being said, Serries and Hatakeyama excel at the ambient soundscaping game, and listeners with an insatiable appetite for the genre won’t come away dissatisfied.” Textura – Canada