Vidna Obmana & Willem Tanke: Variations for Organ, Keyboard and Processors

The indefatigable Vidna Obmana returns with another hour of high-concept Ambient product. Here he’s come up with a series of variations and treatments of organ pieces composed by Willem Tanke. Tanke was inspired by Fritjof Capra’s Tao of Physics, which draws parallels between modern Western physics and Eastern mystical traditions. The sleeve note claims that Tanke and Obmana “attempted to capture the atmosphere of the mystical visions and subatomic whirls” which form the subject of the book. Not being familiar with Capra’s work, I’m not in a position to judge the success or otherwise of this venture. But in purely musical terms the results are moody and elegant, a striking dialogue between ancient and modern that largely avoids the soporific tendencies of Obmana’s earlier The Shape of Solitude.

Tanke played his original compositions on a classical pipe organ, and Obmana then processed parts of these electronically. The organ tends to occupy the upper register while Obmana’s treatments rumble away in counterpoint. The pace is formidably slow: Tanke plays the organ with evident respect for its origins, careful not to rob the instrument of its spiritual context. Obmana layers in sonorous drones to the point where it becomes hard to distinguish between his contributions and those of Tanke. The combination is reminiscent in places of such monuments to inner space as Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra and Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack, enveloping the listener in warm cocoons of sound.

Occasionally the mood deepens. On the lengthy ‘Canon III’ the electronics quietly recede, allowing the dramatic swell of the organ to dominate. On ‘Choral (Midi-Etude)’ the clicks and noises of the original acoustic recording are looped to form soft but ominous beats. Such interventions strengthen the impact of this impressive recording.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 8, 2000)

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