Fear Falls Burning: When Mystery Pervades the Well, the Promise Sets Fire

Fear Falls Burning: First by a Whisper, Then by a Storm
Tonefloat / Ikon

Two beautifully packaged, charcoal black vinyl slabs of Dirk Serries' Fear Falls Burning axe-smithing courtesy of Rotterdam-based independent Tonefloat Recordings. The Fear Falls Burning project was initiated in 2005 as a vehicle for exploring improvisational drone pieces using Les Paul guitars augmented by idiosyncratically designed effects pedals. Heavily processed pieces unfurl organically with slow builds and subtle shifts in direction, with an emphasis on controlled flow rather than abrupt ruptures.

When Mystery Pervades The Well, The Promise Sets Fire includes subtle cymbal and percussion punctuation by Dave Vanderplas but is otherwise all guitar (or, more precisely, “Paul Reed Smith Custom 24, Gibson Sg Standard and Epiphone Les Paul Custom optimized with Steffsen Pickups in relation to Contemporary Boss, Danelectro, Line 6, Electro-Harmonix, Marshall, and Rocktron Pedal Effects). Characteristic of Fear Falls Burning's approach, each side presents a single long piece. Side one begins meditatively in atmospheric drone mode with simple chords that blossom slowly. The music simmers quietly for many minutes with the threat of eruption omnipresent but, to his credit, Serries resists the impulse and chooses to let the music curdle for a full seventeen minutes. The piece continues on side two but now with a slight increase in volcanic activity though, as before, the music escalates incrementally until it eventually becomes a muffled, almost strangulated howl.

First By A Whisper, Then By A Storm not only precedes When Mystery Pervades The Well, The Promise Sets Fire but represents the very first recordings done by Fear Falls Burning (and that apparently document the segue from Serries in his vidnaObmana guise to the drone style of fear falls burning). Auspiciously packaged in a handmade black sleeve with a red wax seal on the front, the earlier release includes four untitled pieces, two short framed by two long (and, for the record, performed with “Craftman Stratocaster and Ibanez Prestige guitars in relation to Contemporary Boss and Danelectro Pedal Effects). Once again Serries exercises considerable restraint as the material never strays too far beyond becalmed levels of guitar drift and shudder—an approach that might frustrate and disappoint listeners more accustomed to buildups and climaxes. To these ears, it's refreshing to hear him take the road less traveled and challenge convention. The weave of clean lines constituting side one's short piece is even almost tranquil. Serries shifts gears on side two with a haunted, slow-burning setting of ghostly drones and then a long-form, Frippertronics-styled ambient exercise in crystalline shimmer and multi-layering. What recommends First By A Whisper, Then By A Storm over the later release is that each of its four pieces reveals a slightly different side of the Fear Falls Burning persona.

March 2008