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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Vidna Obmana - The Trilogy [zoharum - 2018]

Here we have a CD box set reissue of three of the most important releases from with-in the euro ambient music scene. Originally released between 1991 & 1993 Passage In Beauty, Shadow In Sorrow, and Ending Mirage stand as not just important moments in development of  this projects sound , but a huge influences on the wider experimental euro scene.

The release comes in the form of a fold-out digipak- this features monochrome pictures of plants close-up , and a two page write up about the history &  impact of these three important releases. The set appears on respected polish label zoharum, who of course have a good history of reissuing classic ambient, industrial & noise releases from the past. The box set comes in a fairly small edition(considering the importance of these records) of 400 copies- so if you want this I wouldn’t hang around long.

The Vidna Obmana project was started in the mid-1980’s by  Belgian artist Dirk Serries- to start with the projects was very much in the industrial vein, with bleak & noisy sound & nihilistic/ nasty imagery. By the time the decade was out Serries had become tried with this grim sound setting- so he decided to experiment with with-in the ambient genre, and that’s where these three albums come in.

Each of the albums is presented on their own discs, and each has been given an exclusive remastering by Serries  for this release from the original DAT tapes. So first up on disc one we have 1991’s Passage In Beauty- which is very much an excise in classic ambience. The album takes in eight tracks, and sixty-four minutes of playtime. The sound throughout is often very dense & full- with Serries creating layered blends of colder ambient sweeps, drifts, and ebbs. Nothing here is opening harmonic or bright, yet it’s neither overtly dark or brooding either. It’s often said this album summons up a feeling of drifting across icy landscapes, and vast snow-covered tundra’s- and that’s exactly what it does. You can clearly hear nods hear to the likes of Eno, and the colder sounding tracks on  Aphex Twins Selected Ambient Works Volume II( which came after this)- but the whole album has it’s own distinctively cold & hazy quality, which really sounds very individual.

Onto the second disc & we have 1992’s Shadow In Sorrow- this takes in six tracks, and fifty-six minutes of playtime. A few of the tracks here run a little longer than the previous album,  moving over the ten-minute mark. The mood this time around is more solemn, rather nocturnal & at times sadly harmonic in its swooping & ringing layers - as Serries presents a series of tracks that each slowly slip into the light, simmer & hover, then once more return to the shadows & darkness. Yet for all the gloomy vibe present throughout the releases runtime, there is never really any dark ambient clichés present- instead, we get a tangible feeling of melancholic time-less-ness.  With Shadow In Sorrow again Serries creates an album that nods back to the ambient scenes innovator, but also manages to stand with its own identity & feel.


Onto the third & final disc, we have 1993’s Ending Mirage. This takes in six tracks, a total running time of sixty minutes- with an epic twenty-minute middle track. Of the three albums, this features some of the more golden, warming & formally harmonic material of the trilogy- though there are a few darker moments here, along with subtle & slurred hints at the ethnic ambient elements that Serries would later go on to develop more in future with the project.  On the whole I’d say the mood throughout this album is slightly more mixed & varied compared to the more single mood/ vibe of the first two albums.  I guess because of this Ending Mirage stands as my least favourite of the trilogy, though that’s not to say it’s not an accomplished & well tooled ambient, as it certainly is…I guess I just prefer a consistent mood when it comes to the genre.

So in summing up if you’re a fan of the ambient genre you really need to pick-up this box set, as it stands as some of the best ambient works of the 1990’s. And even if you already have one or two of the album's, it’s still worth getting- as the new remastering is nicely done, the new artwork is effective, and the write-up is interesting enough. But as I mentioned early- this is ltd to just 400 copies, and I’m sure these won’t hang around long…so act now or regret later!.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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