Known more recently as an improvisational jazz guitarist, Dirk Serries built an extensive catalogue of ambient recordings between 1984 and 2007. Recording under the name vidnaObmana (Serbian for optical illusion), Serries produced more than 50 releases. The list includes some two dozen solo efforts and collaborations with Klinik, PBK, Steve Roach and others.
The inexhaustible Belgian, who celebrates his 50th birthday this year, has returned to his drone roots. Epitaph is a 91-minute colossus of a recording, featuring 10 improvised ambient pieces.
“Epitaph is the swansong of music I like to name my vintage ambient,” writes Serries in the album’s notes. “For more than 30 years I’ve been trying to seek perfection, from synthesizers to electric guitars, a bumpy ride for sure with lots of doubts, frustrations, extreme self-criticism and a few highs and lows but the call kept on strong. This is what I breathe, this is the heart of who I am.”
The material is warm and comforting. This is not guitar ambient music in the traditional sense. Serries pulls extraordinary sounds out of his instrument, with the help of only a few effects.
This is better understood as a drone recording, delivered by a major talent capable of transporting his listeners with pieces like “spectral gray walls,” “shining form constellation” and “formations of grace.”
“[This is] my finest collection of ambient pieces to date. One, as all were, quite personal and attached as they are performed in solitude with only the imaginative mirror to hold in front of me. Melancholic impressions improvised on the spot,” he writes.
Serries is in the prime of a wide-ranging career, one that independent artists can look to for inspiration. Since he was a teenager, the man has produced music he loves in a variety of genres. Besides his work as vidnaObmana, he’s performed with My Bloody Valentine and Low. He’s worked with Cult of Luna and Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick. And he continues to run a respected label called A New Wave of Jazz.
Epitaph may be prematurely titled. Just the same though, it is a handsome reminder of Serries’ success in the ambient genre.