The River Of Appearance

During college breaks in the mid 90s I often shopped for music at Newbury Comics in Braintree, Massachusetts. I could be found frequently burying my head in issues of Permission and B-Side magazine. Around that same time I also discovered the Projekt Records label, most likely from an ad in the back of one of the magazines.

After listening to 1994’s Beneath The Icy Floe cassette sampler, I was hooked on Projekt’s introspective sounds from artists like Black Tape For A Blue Girl, lovesliescrushing, Lycia, Soul Whirling Somewhere, the list goes on…

While browsing Newbury’s one day, I picked up BTFABG’s Remnants Of A Deeper Purity, but another CD also caught my eye: an album by Vidna Obmana. Something about the muted colors of the underwater scene on the cover grabbed my attention. The artist was unknown to me, but I decided to give it a try. It was entitled The River Of Appearance.

Being home on break, I was staying in my childhood bedroom which looked out over our backyard from the second floor. That particular evening it was snowing gigantic flakes in slow motion. I tossed on The River Of Appearance and loved it. It was much different than my usual diet of NIИ, Coil, Skinny Puppy, and the like. This CD still had shades of darkness but also a calming quality that mesmerized me. It fit perfectly with the freshly fallen snow.

Despite being composed of synths and looping textures, there was an undeniable organic quality to the album. Was I hearing field recordings? Are those nature sounds? Or was everything constructed in a studio? I spent many nights floating along to it.

In fact, it’s still on my CD shelf today surviving about 9 moves and countless rounds of purging my collection. Over time I slowly picked up more from Vidna Obmana whose real name is Dirk Serries, a composer from Belgium. (His pseudonym is Serbian for “optical illusion.”)

While albums like The Trilogy and Crossing The Trail are fantastic, there was something that kept pulling me back to that first CD I owned. He’s recorded over 70 albums and appeared on a considerable number of compilations. I had fewer than 10, plus a handful of his collaborations with Steve Roach and Sam Rosenthal (Projekt’s founder). But I recently added more to my collection. I was in the mood for his music and went down the Discogs rabbit hole to discover his earlier years.

His earliest output from the mid 80s – recorded in his small bedroom at his parents’ house – is experimental noise complete with harsh tape loops, electronic debris, and growling vocals buried in the mix. Move forward a few years and his more melodic side begins to emerge. I find this transition period the most fascinating.

It wasn’t until a couple months ago I discovered Gathering In Frozen Beauty. It’ll be worth your while if you can track down the 10-track version re-released on the Memories Compiled 2xCD. It adds another 12+ min from the same sessions. While quite different from the dreamy solitude of The River Of Appearance, Gathering.. is undeniably Vidna Obmana and it now sits alongside River.. as my two favorites. It’d be great if the 1989 cassette ever popped up for sale on Discogs again.

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to search out other late 80s output that matches this. It took a while but I stumbled upon his collaboration with PBK called Monument Of Empty Colours this weekend. It’s a fitting companion album to Gathering.. recorded the same year and also at PBK’s studio.

Now I feel I can go back to the well every so often and discover new gems in his back catalog. I’m happy to see he’s made most everything available on Bandcamp and you can fill in the gaps with Projekt’s own Bandcamp page. Digging through this treasure trove puts me right back in Newbury Comics as a wide-eyed, eager 19-year-old.

And yup, here’s a blurb about Projekt’s new releases in the 1996 summer issue of Permission magazine.

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