Dirk Serries + Rutger Zuydervelt
1. Buoyant One: Lost Trail
2. Buoyant Two: The Whispering Scale
3. Buoyant Three: Unraveled Blanket
4. Buoyant Four: The Dissection
lp / cd / download on Consouling Sounds, May 2015
Stream or order the album at
Bandcamp (also in digital format)
Buoyant brings together two of the most prolific and interesting artists the ambient/drone genre has to offer. For this release, Dirk Serries (Microphonics, VidnaObmana, Continuum, Fear Falls Burning, …) and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek, DNMF, Piiptsjilling, Shivers, Cloud Ensemble, …) teamed up to make a hauntingly beautiful album in 4 chapters. Sparse and subtle, but powerful and urgent, these chapters lift up the audience, and keep them afloat for the entire listening trip. The avant-garde approach of Zuydervelt’s sound scaping merges brilliantly with Serries’ minimal and atmospheric pursuit of crafting sounds and ambiences. The result is simply stunning, and leaves one in want of more.
Dirk Serries adds to an ever-expanding discography with two fine releases, one a solo set and the other a collaboration with Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek), a kindred ambient-soundscaping experimentalist who's output is as prodigious. Without wishing to take anything away from Zuydervelt, Buoyant is fundamentally Serries' show, given that it's his guitar work that is the core element. Having said that, his partner does much to turn Buoyant into something dramatically unlike a pure solo Serries recording.
Presented in four parts ranging from eight to fourteen minutes each, the material is consistent with the meditative soundscaping style Serries has been bringing to a new level of refinement for many years. For his part, Zuydervelt adopts the role of interventionist and colourist, his focus being to modify the guitarist's expressions using effects and processing without altering it to such a degree that Serries' playing loses its identifiable character. Some additions are relatively startling—the appearance of a restrained percussive pulse alongside the guitarist's textural washes during “Buoyant Two: The Whispering Scale” is not something one typically encounters in a Serries cut, for example—whereas others verge on subliminal. “Buoyant Four: The Dissection” exemplifies the latter in ornamenting Serries' long-form tendrils with warbles, sonar blips, and smears.
But even when Zuydervelt's treatments are at their most plentiful, the guitarist's signature sound is still present and accounted for. A case in point is “Buoyant Three: Unraveled Blanket,” where nebulous masses smolder, heave, and convulse so dramatically they threaten to obliterate the guitar altogether. Yet despite the dominance of those billowing textures, they never extinguish the axe completely, and the track ends up an evenly matched tug-of-war between the various elements. Heavily atmospheric, Buoyant's material appears restful and becalmed, yet tension simmers just below the surface to suggest turbulence is never too far away.
Dirk Serries has, over the decades, worked on numerous projects and countless releases. It’s therefore no surprise that in 2015 (so far) he’s featured in two new albums: one solo (which will be subject of another review) and one where he’s teamed up with Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), another soundscaping artist with an ever-growing oeuvre.
As I’m getting to know more bands and albums in the ambient/drone/soundscape genre, my preference for these instrumental and rhythmless tracks seems to be determined by a single question: does the music paint a scene so clearly that I can immediately visualize it? Basically, the same experience as with impressionistic composers: no clear-cut onset or ending for a scene in which life steadily comes and goes. (Even though the artist could have an entirely different idea or reason, of course.)
For “Buoyant”, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. My imagination conjured up some futuristic, floating vessels going about their daily routine (at least during track one). Despite some underlying distortion and sudden tiny outbursts, the thick, full synths are extremely soothing and so the framework of the soundscape. All additional sounds simply fit in like they’re the most natural thing happening.
The following chapters are somewhat graver and deeper, albeit in the same style as the first. The synths remain unchanged in their essence, but as the story evolves, the mood gradually becomes darker and more esoteric – everything feels more dissonant and minor, and you’ve just got to admire how subtle these guys bring it about. Nice piece of collaborative work.
Merchants of Air
Sometimes, as a reviewer, you can find a release in your inbox that just screams 'take me, review me'. Often, this is because you know the artist or because you almost blindly trust the label to come up with some high quality music. This time, it's both. Consouling Sounds have already pleased us with very strong albums in the past months, including Wiegedood, Nordmann and Thisquietarmy and they never disappoint. Dirk Serries & Rutger Zuydervelt are some of the hardest working people in the ambient and drone scene. Maybe you know these names, but I'll introduce them anyway. After all, that's my job here.
Dirk Serries is widely known and respected under the monikers VidnaObmana, FearFallsBurning and Microphonics. His guitar drones and ambient soundscapes are being enjoyed all over the world and have been for many years. Some people call him 'The Belgian Aidan Baker' but I don't know if he'd like that. Dirk Serries is a phenomenon on his own and a highly talented musician. Rutger Zuydervelt is the name behind Machinefabriek, a Dutch experimental project, ranging from ambient over IDM and noise to electro-acoustic music. His oeuvre is immense and surprisingly varied.
The strange thing is, this album is exactly what I expected when I first saw the two names on the cover: 'drones, scoundscapes and mesmerizing electronics in a continuous flow that has the ability to enchant the listener and take him away to faraway universes'. In that way this is not really a very surprising album but it is a masterpiece that brings out the best in both men. I'm a huge fan of FearFallsBurning and I loved the powerful drums in his 'Frenzy Of The Absolute' album. However, the minimal electronics supporting the drones on Buoyant are stronger and have a mysterious atmosphere.
There's four pieces on Buoyant, each one of them being a lengthy blend of guitars drones and ambient soundscapes, backed by these tingly clicks and glitches that make Machinefabriek so interesting. Traditionally, the pieces fade in and out, creating an almost uninterrupted flow of blissful musical ambiance. Here and there the distortion breaks through, winking towards the drone-noise scene. Yet it remains calm, smooth and relaxing music even at its darkest points.
So yes, if you have ever heard the people who made this album perform, you will know exactly what you'll get when you purchase this album. But that's not a bad thing, on the contrary. If it were bad, Consouling Sounds wouldn't release it anyway. Buoyant is a very strong album, containing the best possible elements to make this thing work. As we say in Belgium, 'chapeau'.
De Ongeletterde Wanhoop
Wie om wat voor reden ook overweegt slechts één plaat te kopen, raden wij dan toch Buoyant aan, de samenwerking met Rutger Zuydervelt waarop Dirk Serries de gitaren bespeelt en effecten toevoegt en Zuydervelt verantwoordelijk is voor de overige geluiden en de verwerking van alle geluiden (of hoe moeten we "processing" anders begrijpen?). Onze suggestie heeft alles te maken met de grotere verscheidenheid die op dit album horen.
Lost trail opent de plaat rustig en sluit het meest aan bij het geluid op Unseen descending and lamentations, al horen we al in de details dat een breder geluidsspectrum aangesproken wordt. In The whispering scale houden we vooral van hoe naar het einde toe het aanzwellend geluid lijkt terug te springen, alsof de naald op het vinyl een heel eind terugspringt. Het geeft een aliënerend gevoel, alsof je als luisteraar weggeduwd wordt telkens je meegroeit in de opbouw van het geluid. Unraveled blanket klinkt zoals de stilte voor de storm, geladen met electriciteit. Onze favoriet op deze plaat is echter The dissection, dat begint alsof we door een deur heen luisteren naar de intensive care-afdeling in het ziekenhuis. Het regelmatige gepiep van de machines wordt omringd door onrust en naarmate de song vordert, klinkt het alsof de wind waait doorheen dat alles, ijzig en kou. De spanning is te snijden zonder dat de muzikanten drukte hoeven te maken.
Op zijn duoplaat met Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) is hij wellicht nog beter in vorm. Het mooie is dat zowel Serries als Zuydervelt inmiddels gewend zijn aan duo’s, trio’s en nog veel meer, en dus perfect weten hoe ze elkaar ruimte en tijd moeten geven. Op Buoyant leidt dit tot een van de mooiste platen van 2015 tot nu toe, met vier lange tracks vol melancholie, golvende gitaarlijnen, en elektronische, abstracte weerhaakjes die onderhuids de spanning continu verhogen. Een perfecte synthese, waarbij je hoogstens de vraag kunt stellen waarom de heren niet eerder tot elkaar zijn gekomen.