intro

THE QUARTET live at VORTEX

dsc04763

This heavy-hitting quartet comprises four long-term sparring partners on the European improvised music scene. The quartet first played together in 2015 at Café Oto, and this set was released as their debut album.  The quartet followed this up in 2016 with their double LP ‘Apparitions’ on the New Wave of Jazz label.  This time they played the VORTEX JAZZ CLUB with special guest Alan Wilkinson.   Photography by Steven Cropper for Transient Life.

ETCHED ABOVE THE BOW GRIP

dirk cover
DIRK SERRIES – ETCHED ABOVE THE BOW GRIP (CD, Raw Tonk Records)

“This is actually Dirk Serries’ first album of solo guitar improvisations, although you wouldn’t think it given the assurance and aggression that he marshals across its eleven tracks. He’s not a complete newbie to this stuff, having joined jazz blasters Yodok in 2013 alongside tuba player Kristoffer Lo and drummer Tomas Järmyr and played in various other ensembles from around the same time. I think I first heard him belching out clouds of scorching guitar fire as part of the Dikeman / Serries / Webster / Lisle quartet’s Live at Café Oto release (also on Raw Tonk) where his ability to carve out his own blackened spaces within the ongoing barrage of tenor, baritone and drums was impressive and unignorable. Take Dikeman’s horn away and you’re left with Kodian Trio, whose I (Tonefloat) and recent Live at Paradox (Raw Tonk) also feature Serries and are also essential listening.

Still, Serries has come to free improvisation relatively late, having worked since the late 90s as a predominantly electronic artist, putting out stuff with various degrees of abrasion and ambience under various aliases (Vidna Obmama, 3 Seconds of Air and Microphonics are three of his most well-known pseudonyms). I can’t help thinking that this training has given him an intuitive sense of space and dynamics that has served him well as he’s immersed himself in this different area of activity. Sweet Ruin, Etched On The Bow Grip’s opening track, is a fine example, its guttural, scraping extended techniques creating an rusting behemoth with nary a power chord to be heard.

And even if the spectre of Derek Bailey hangs over anything that’s concerned with  free improvisation on the guitar, Serries faces this anxiety of influence head on, with a dedication to the Sheffield master on the album sleeve, before swerving away from those archetypical, prickly forms to create something with its own charred and idiosyncratic character. There are still recognisable Bailey-esque moments – witness the flayed skin fuzz of This Brutal Vortex and sharp cuts of Clusters Bleed, Serries turning the latter track from what could easily have been a rather pedestrian slice of fuzzed up fret-bothering into something that writhes with malignant energy. Indeed, throughout the album, Serries’ irascible, juddering attack  on pieces liked Diffused Wire Appliance, with its clotted scrunch and Rowe-like gobbets of radio noise, is a pertinent reminder that improvisation is sometimes at its best when it’s bloody-minded.

In any case, Serries leavens the free improv stew with a fair of dollop of avant-rock overload, fully cognizant of the power of feedback and sustained chordage to bring forth seismic disturbance. Assert Total Illusory Curve’s cracked harmonics and muffled yowl channel Weld-era Crazy Horse doggedly pushing through another 25 minute psychic meltdown jam (perhaps Arc, its noise collage sister is a better comparison). Futility Wrath Allegory is even better, its staccato histrionics evoking Young at his most ravaged, Serries tearing ragged chunks of noise out of his instrument like the devil ripping a soul out of some poor unbeliever. What a killer.” Weneednoswords – UK

Damusic reviews YODOK III

Dirk Serries heeft zijn zoveelste reïncarnatie doorstaan. Van industriële ambientdronemeester tot heerser van het minimalisme, van jazzimprovisator tot volledige muzikale bevrijder. Met Yodok III, ofte vaste kompanen Tomas Järmyr op drums en Kristoffer Lo op tuba, trekt de geluidsuitvinder voornamelijk de laatste kaart. Getuige is het wapenfeit ‘Legion Of Radiance: Live At Dokkhuset’: een weergave van een concert in Trondheim op 15 mei van vorig jaar, dat perfect de improviserende en vernieuwende kracht van dit trio weergeeft.

Traag en onheilspellend. Een minimalisme van beweging in de achtergrond. Vibraties die naderbij komen tot na drie volle minuten drie holle kloppen de deur openen naar een universum van ingetogenheid, suggestie en verwachting. Er lijken borstels te schuifelen, er lijkt een strijkstok over een snaar te glijden in een herhalende loop, er lijkt een warmte te ontstaan van lichtrode ondertonen. Geklop, gekraak en geruis. Maar wat is echt en wat is fantasie?

Gedurende een kleine zeventig minuten groeit deze ene livetrack, dit alomvattend geluidskunstwerk op van een zachte ambientfantasie tot een solide, overdonderende klankcreatie. Donker donderende basbonken, een verweven tapijt van drones en glijdende noten, een onophoudelijk, penetrant gepiep van korte tonen… met zijn drieën lijken de heren wel het symfonisch orkest van de duivel dat zich klaarmaakt om zijn meest helse requiem te gaan spelen. Yodok III neemt echter ruimschoots de tijd en blijft een dik kwartier steken in een speurtocht naar harmonie en compositie.

Geleidelijk aan versterken Belg, Noor en Zweed elkaar tot een klagend, overheersend geheel van smekende noten, fel om zichzelf cirkelende drumroffels en een wild opbollende donderwolk van felle tonen en donkere drones. De dreiging neemt gestaag maar zeker toe, evenals de moeizame beklimming naar een piek van pure noise en chaos. De manier, waarop de luisteraar wordt ingepakt in een wervelwind van geluid en de rust die ervaren wordt wanneer na een dik half uur de storm luwt en uitmondt in een melancholische hoornmelodie, is pure magie. Wat moet het niet geweest zijn dit live te mogen ondergaan!?

In een fijne, golvende structuur klimt Yodok III ook voor een tweede keer binnen een dik uur naar een muzikale extase toe. Voor deze tweede keer ligt de basis bij het klagende koper van de hoorn die een tochtig geheel van tonen presenteert. Bonken, bellen en een stratosfeer van zoemende, strijkende complexiteit gaat voor een industriële verhevenheid.

Deze vernieuwende vorm van live ambient of neoklassiek experiment is een voortdurende prikkeling van de fantasie. Onophoudelijke beweging en verruiming van het klankbeeld scheppen een buitenaardse, amorfe structuur die steeds grotere proporties aanneemt. Zelfs op harde drager en dus los van spontaniteit, is het wonderbaarlijk te ervaren hoe Yodok III niet zomaar een samengaan is van drie muzikanten, maar een moloch met veel armen die gretig om zichzelf grijpt. Onvoorspelbaar, genadeloos en ook heel erg gulzig.” Damusic – Belgium

YODOK III new CD reviewed

YODOK III – LEGION OF RADIANCE : LIVE AT DOKKHUSET (CD, Consouling Sounds)

“Roadburn is coming up in a few weeks and I’m sure many people are looking forward to that. I know that the good people from Consouling Sounds are, because they are about to release this gem upon the world to coincide with Yodok III’s appearance on the mother of all fuzzfests. I wish I could go to Roadburn this years, but unfortunately, I can’t. However, I’ll comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ll be seeing Yodok III at Dunk!Festival later this year.

Yodok III is the enthralling cooperation between Tomas Järmyr (Barchan, Zu), Kristoffer Lo (Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and others) and Belgium’s own drone-guru Dirk Serries (Microphonics, Vidna Obmana, Fear Falls Burning). Their work has previously been released on Tonefloat’s ‘New Wave Of Jazz’ series, which crossover jazz and experimental ambient. So yeah, these guys know a thing or two about exciting music.

‘Legion Of Radiance’ is a one track album, lasting almost seventy minutes. It combines the unique drumming of Järmyr with Lo’s deep tuba sounds and Serries’ recognizable soundscapes. The result is a gloomy and adventurous piece of music, which is best to be enjoyed with your eyes closed and your mind open. At first, the music is silent. In fact, it took me awhile before I realized that the album was already playing.

But, like all good drone and ambient albums, gradually the music swells and gains momentum. It becomes darker, deeper and more intense, minute after minute. It gets heavier, experimental and jazz-like, certainly with those energetic drums. In the end, it because every drone fan’s dream: a mature album which floats in a similar way than Smetana’s ‘Die Moldau’. Or maybe that’s just me. Fact remains, this is a brilliant album which you should definitely buy.” Merchants Of Air – Belgium

“6 out of 7 stars rating !! Yodok III gjør det ikke lett for seg med sitt nyeste album; et konsertopptak fra Dokkhuset som har manifestert seg som en mastdont av ei plate. Et langt spor som puster, peser og blåser seg ut av høyttalerne dine. Kristoffer Lo (blåsere) og Tomas Järmyr (trommer) er begge godt kjent i den norske undergrunnen; både med soloskiver og aktive i bl.a.  Sunswitch, Zu og Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Yodok III er deres samarbeid med den nederlandske frigitaristen Dirk Serries som også er kjent på den internasjonale undergrunnsarenaen med diverse bandkonstellasjoner og prosjekter.

Kvelden på Dokkhuset åpnet utrolig forsiktig, jeg må nesten skru anlegget til fullt volum, men jeg hører knapt annen en en svak knitring. Etter hvert som sporet trer frem fra høyttalernettingen hører jeg de tre i bandet puste stille og spent. Musikken føles stå helt stille, men det er kun til man har gitt seg selv tid til å finne dens grunnlinje. De første minuttene mener jeg å høre vispende cymbaler, gitarens lange linjer og hornets stille pust. En og annen detalj bryter denne langsomme overflaten, og det føles som nær sagt et haiangrep hver gang.

Men, hver for seg tar de tre musikerne stadig mer plass uten å skyve noen av de andre vekk. De øker, nesten uhørlig hvis man ikke tar seg tid, intensiteten og kraften i musikken sin etter hvert som vi kommer ut på stadig djupere vann; slag på instrumentene føles mer som fjernt torden og gir lytteren en følelse av å vite at en storm er på vei ut av platas riller. Lo og Serries er langt ute på det åpne hav og det høres ut som ansvaret faller på Järmyr hva angår å gi musikken et ankerfeste; en endring i kursen. Stadig sterkere setter et perkussivt drag og ujevne slag en hjerterytme på bandets output. De løfter seg ut av det stille vannet, og med ett høres et kort blitzslag av et gitarangrep. Like etter trekker det seg, men det er snart tilbake. Som haier som sirkler rundt sitt bytte, kommer de stadig nærmere i tettere sirkler. Igjen og igjen. Nærmere og nærmere.  Men, båndet til de første minuttene er fremdeles tydelige – her er det en glassklar, rød tråd.

En tredjedel ut i konserten hører man med ett Kristoffer Los blåsere tydeligere og man blir klar over at det med ett har oppstått en markant kursendring i bandets visjon. De bryter overflaten, Järmyr slår ut mot lytteren med raske kombinasjoner og batteriteft, mens hans kumpaner blir stadig mer høylytte i sin repetitive pust; en pust som nå høres ut som en klagesang. Det som først på plata kun var en skjør skimring er nå blitt et stormens øye – et stille sentrum som omringes, stikkes og trues av et kaotisk ytre.

Jeg tar meg i å bli imponert over bandets evne til å la denne prosessen føles sømløs; halvveis ut i albumet er deres utgangspunkt helt visket ut, men like fullt er det flere detaljer som holder bandets fokus intakt. Järmyr slipper løs sine demoner og står frem som den mørke motsatsen til sine bandkameraters zen; det brøler, buldrer, knitrer og hyler fra trommesettet hans og han fremstår som en av den nordiske undergrunnens beste instrumentalister. Stormens øye er nesten utslettet og de piskende vindene truer med å rive låta fra hverandre. Men, med ett stilner kaoset og roen makter igjen å gripe rattet.

Men, noe er forandret; tematikken til Lo og Serries er endret og for første gang kjenner jeg ikke igjen grunnlinja i musikken. Vi har begynt på en ny ferd og dette såre temaet passer bandet godt, men det får ikke holde lenge før det hele ender opp i en ny, stillfaren ferd. Denne gangen er det Järmyrs cymbaler som krydrer lydbildet med deilige detaljer, og jeg tar meg i å vente på en eksplosjon fra bandet. Den kommer dog ikke med en gang; først dobler Lo og Serries sin grunnlinje og gir den et sterkere skjelett. Men, rent bortsett fra det er det kun mikroskopiske endringer i låtas form på dette tidspunktet – Legion Of Radiance føles på dette tidspunktet som en kombinasjon av elektronisk ambient og et strykerorkester.

Men, som under den første halvdelen av albumet får de også nå et ankerfeste i melodier, og sakte, men sikkert, våger Yodok III seg ut i lyset. Järmyr er ikke like eksplosivt til stede som før, men han er likevel riktig å rette blikket mot når man ser bandet. Bandet føles her mer avslappet og har bedre tid til å la det helhetlige bildet få gripe seg fast i vår oppmerksomhet. Selv om denne andre delen er lettere, blir den stadig mørkere desto lenger ut i filmen man kommer. Men, der man i første halvdel var vitne til en kamp mellom stille og støy, er klimakset i andre del av en mer harmonisk type. I løpet av de siste fem minuttene får man følelsen av å høre disse to motsatsene stille og støy fungere nesten fullendt sammen; som en dønning på det svartblå havet ruller bandet over oss som en velsmurt maskin.” Panorama – Norway

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

quartet live at cafe oto

On April 1st 2015 John Dikeman on tenor saxophone, Andrew Lisle on drums, Dirk Serries on electric guitar and Colin Webster on bariton saxophone played Cafe Oto (London, UK).  This is the complete show.

Dark Entries reviews THE ORIGIN REVERSAL

“9 out 10 rating ! Met dit album brengt Dirk Serries ons terug naar de periode waarin hij als vidnaObmana actief was. Muziek met een hang naar nostalgie en drijvend op een retro gevoel. Zij het een aangename beleving, want zijn liefde voor gitaar en de link die hij legt naar ambient muziek als genre is doorleefd en ontroerd. Serries omarmd en streelt zijn Gibson Les Paul als een geliefde. Het geluid is warm, vertederend, rustgevend, weids, vredevol. En ondanks het minimale karakter is het ook muziek met een grote intensiteit en een hypnotiserend effect waardoor het tijdsbesef vervaagt en een parallelle wereld zich aan de luisteraar ontvouwt. Je krijgt een vluchtweg aangeboden, een tijdelijk onderkomen weg van alle heisa. De enkele effectpedalen die Dirk gebruikt zijn genoeg om al deze impressies te etaleren. Het geeft een mooi beeld van tot wat een doorwinterd en een door liefde voor muziek bezeten artiest met een enkele gitaar in staat is. In de intimiteit van de huiskamer worden ook de momenten van stilte plots belangrijk, want ook die stilte maakt deel uit van het organisch geheel. Muziek zonder woorden die ontegensprekelijk een positieve boodschap brengt en de hoop laat opleven dat het bestaan van een ideale wereld geen utopie is.” Dark Entries – Belgium.

a new chapter

Well, it has been on and off that requests arrived whether I would return to blogging. appreciation for the playlists, recommendations, the little bits on what’s going on, snapshots of life and so on.  On top of this, since 2011 projects got born more rapidly and even beyond personal control due to the connection with some of the finest musicians out there. The blog helps me to structure all as detailed and transparant as possible so I welcome the return and hope you’ll join me on this platform.