3 Seconds of Air: The Flight of Song

Dirk Serries: Microphonics VI

A glance at the info accompanying 3 seconds of air's debut recording might lead one to think it will be a blistering, distortion-drenched rave-up. Having started out as an exploratory vehicle for guitarists Dirk Serries and Paul Van Den Berg, the group expanded into a trio with the addition of bassist Martina Verhoeven. But anyone expecting her to function as an anchor for stratospheric gunslinging by the guitarists should note the “Do not play this album loud, no headphones required!” instruction that appears on the album's back cover. Translation: the four long-form settings stretching across the seventy-five-minute recording (available in CD, black vinyl, and clear vinyl formats) are slow-moving, haunted masses of subtle and low-level design that are anything but barnburners. Recorded over two frosty days in February 2009 at the Belgian chapel of Saint Theobaldus, the music breathes with the sound of three musical midwives interacting, pacing themselves, layering materials, and collectively giving birth to incrementally-unfolding improvisations of spectral character. “Dead Poets Sing The Sunless Land” drifts across the endless terrain, setting the stage for the slightly more intense ruminations and shuddering swells of “The Heart Disintegrates Wearing Disposable Masks Of Angels.” “Warping Night Air Having Brought The Boom” plunges headlong into the blackest of nights, coaxing dulcimer-like flickers into the light and blanketing the crepuscular mass with gloom. The guitarists fill the ample spaces between the bass tones with slow-burning electrical shadings and plucks, after which “Ghosts Stream The Harmony Of Delight” arrives like the peaceful morn that follows the harrowing night. Van Den Berg and Serries bring respective blues and ambient-drones influences to the recording, while Verhoeven unobtrusively anchors the ethereal flow in tracks that were laid down using nothing more than a laptop, pro-tools, and a single stereo microphone (no overdubs or editing either).

A natural complement to the trio's recording is Serries' sixth Microphonics outing, which came about in rather impromptu manner courtesy of a last-minute invitation to perform at the Whatbar #4 blog event in The Hague. Captured straight to tape, the twenty-two-minute improv (a one-sided vinyl release available in beautiful gold, silver, and white pressings) casts a potent spell as Serries' quivering guitar lines and broad undulating waves thread multi-layered paths through a black-as-coal, starlit nightscape. It's quintessential Serries captured in a single, economical piece.

July 2009