Dirk Serries: Microphonics XXI-XXV

With his vidnaObmana (1984-2005) and Fear Falls Burning (2005-2012) personae laid to rest, Dirk Serries now devotes his full attention to his Microphonics project. He characterizes its as minimalism, but the term makes more sense when applied to the number of personnel involved (Serries only) rather than the sound itself, which, on this second Microphonics studio album, is full-bodied and epic. Created between 2010 and 2012, the forty-five-minute set presents four long-form meditations that showcase different facets of Serries' playing style.

There are moments when Microphonics XXI-XXV conforms to expectations. The first of the four pieces, “Mounting Among the Waves,” for example, is exactly what one might expect a recording by Serries to sound like: eleven minutes of molten guitar playing, the sound raw and laced with distortion and grime, shadowed by soft glimmerings that grow progressively more dominant until the organ-like drone threatens to supplant the guitar altogether. “The Burden of Hope” and “Thousands Of Rivers” likewise dive deeply into scabrous seas of feedback and fuzz-tone, but not to unmusical effect; Serries exercises expert control in his shaping of the total sound mass, such that it never collapses into noise and retains its melodic essence, even when it builds into a seething swarm (as it does over the course of “The Burden of Hope”).

But there is also a moment when a less familiar side of Serries appears, specifically during the album peak, “There's a Light In Vein,” where the guitarist assumes the guise of impressionistic scene-painter in generating huge, glorious swaths of heavenly sound. Serries uses his arsenal of effects to create a slow-building swell of Fripp-styled ambient washes that is so stunning it can't help but make the other pieces feel secondary. The recording is available on CD, of course, but also in a limited-edition, gatefold-sleeve format that includes a coffee table book, two ten-inch vinyl discs (150 copies on white vinyl, 300 copies on black), and the CD.

March 2013