Dirk Serries: The Origin Reversal

If there's a key that unlocks Dirk Serries' The Origin Reversal, it's located on the release's inner sleeve, where the instruction “Play at low volume” and the clarifying detail “All improvisations: streams of consciousness” appear. The Origin Reversal can be seen, in other words, as Serries operating in ambient mode, specifically in the ambient soundsculpting style of his vidnaObmana persona, which the Belgium-based guitarist formally retired in 2007. Ostensibly, The Origin Reversal represents a reboot of the vidnaObmana project—something of a surprise, no doubt, to long-time Serries devotees who had come to believe the project was permanently over.

In fact, the move doesn't come as a total surprise, given the release in 2012 of Low Volume Music, his meditative collaboration with Steve Roach, and the 2013 release on Tonefloat:Ikon of three solo albums featuring long-form live performances. Executed by the guitarist in real-time directly to a stereo two-track using a Gibson Les Paul, pedals, and effects, The Origin Reversal feels very much like a natural extension of Serries' recent output.

If one abides by the “Play at low volume” instruction, one discovers that the album does achieve Serries' presumed aim in the way it floods the space with multi-layered, ambient-styled textures. But the optimal way to experience the album is with the volume up, as doing so allows one to better appreciate the wave-like unfolding of the slow-burning material and the way its ripples overlap so hypnotically.

Admittedly, The Origin Reversal does adhere to the conventions of ambient music in one clear sense, specifically in emphasizing settings that are placid, harmonious, and soothing as opposed to aggressive and dissonant. All five settings are strong, but special mention must be made of the album's longest track, “Transfuse the Phantom,” a towering, twenty-one-minute set-piece of galaxial scope that closes the set with multiple demonstrations of expertly controlled blaze. Here and elsewhere, Serries, abetted by decades of experience, demonstrates remarkable poise and mastery in the way he shapes the material in real-time.

December 2014