DIRK SERRIES’ newest ambient release FLUCTUATION OF BEING (cd, Midira Records) just got reviewed.
” have been a fan of Dirk Serries’ early work as Vidna Obmana for nearly a quarter century. It largely relies on synth-driven ambiance in a similar vein as that of Steve Roach, Alio Die, Robert Rich, and so on. Landscape in Obscurity was a masterpiece. Here, he returns to that general style but with guitar and effects rather than synths. These five long tracks feature Serries generating slow-moving drone soundscapes. The textures are slightly rough with just enough distortion to be unsettling. With these building blocks, he moves deliberately from chord to chord, each sweeping into phase as a variation of a previous theme or an exploration of a new motif. The result is surprisingly melodic despite the album’s lack of traditional notions of melody, harmony, or rhythm. When listened to as a whole, Fluctuation of Being has the ability to slip in and out of any incidental background noises in the listening environment. But I also find that it grabs my attention more frequently than most ambient music. But this dual nature of the recording is not surprising, given Serries’ history of mixing passages that evoke relaxation but with dark overtones. Regardless, this effort is another strong one in Serries’ very long discography. ” AMN
“Dirk Serries prosegue imperterrito nella sua ricerca musicale che lo ha portato, nel corso di una carriera leggendaria, a sperimentare le sonorità più disparate. A mio avviso è comunque con il suo progetto Vidna Obmana che ha lasciato il segno riuscendo a ridefinire i confini della musica ambient. Tuttavia Dirk Serries è sempre stato un artista che ha giustamente guardato avanti e che ha sempre cercato di reinventare il suo linguaggio. In realtà la sua sensibilità alla materia sonora è sempre rimasta sempre la stessa così come la sua capacità di riuscire a creare delle emozioni profonde nell’ascoltatore. È solo cambiata la forma ma non la sostanza: mentre prima usava i synth ora usa le chitarre ma il musicista belga è rimasto integro e se anche, data anche la notevole produzione, ogni tanto gli capita di ripercorrere strade già battute, lo fa sempre con grande classe e con un fine artigianato. È il caso anche di questo nuovo The Fluctuation of Being, un album caratterizzato da atmosfere malinconiche che mi ha ricordato il Vidna Obmana più oscuro, quello per intenderci di The Contemporary Nocturne e Surreal Sanctuary ma anche della collaborazione con Asmus Tietchens. Fin dalla prima traccia “Nothingness” siamo proiettati in un paesaggio nebbioso dai contorni indefiniti, un paesaggio che sembra avvolgere delle città in un crepuscolo eterno. La sensazione è quella di fluttuare in una dimensione onirica ma, allo stesso tempo, estremamente reale. Serries riesce a non perdere mai il contatto con la realtà: semmai ce ne offre una visione leggermente distorta ma non per questo meno vera. Anzi la sua musica riesce a portarne alla luce, nella sua apparente immobilità, la sua essenza nascosta.” Ver Sacrum
Chile’s LOOP MAGAZINE just published a brand-new interview with DIRK SERRIES about his recent solo album FLUCTUATION OF BEING on MIDIRA RECORDS.
In the early 80s the Belgian composer Dirk Serries began to work in the industrial scene with the alias of Vidna Obmana with whom he released more than 140 solo albums and in collaboration with other artists such as Steve Roach, San Rosenthal, David Lee Myers, Asmus Tietchens, Steven R. Smith, Aidan Baker, Celer, Scatterwound to name a few.
In 2005, Serries decided to finish with Vidna Obmana, while he had other projects like The Fear Falls Burning and Microphonics, the latter is still active. In addition to playing with several bands. Meanwhile he founded several labels such as Mechanical Orchestration Music in which he released the music of Vidna Obmana. In recent years he has developed a great interest in free-jazz and improvisational music, founding the A New Wave Of Jazz label.
Serries is a multifaceted musician who works both with metal and post-metal, as well as free improvisation, avant-garde jazz and ambient music under his name, with which he has just released the album “Fluctuation Of Being” (Midira Records, 2023), an album that features long guitar drones that float in a sea of uplifting tonalities. On the occasion of this new album, this interview is carried out.
Thanks go to Ed Benndorf, from the Berlin distributor Dense, for arranging this interview and to Dirk Serries for sharing his experience.
You work in a wide spectrum of music. Can you tell us what you find and appreciate in ambient music and free-jazz/improvisation?
“Almost from day one when I started to experiment with sound in the early eighties my goal was to look forward, to learn and grow as a musician and a human being. So, I never shied away from pushing myself and trying different combinations, genres and even instruments. Apart from a brief industrial phase in my early existence as a musician, I got extremely fascinated by ambient music and I still am. Over those past 3 decades I was able to fine-tune my own style in this genre, over the course working with synths and computers till purifying my sound to work solely with an electric guitar and a few pedals. Although I’m not that intensely active any more, the focus lies way more on the free improvisation nowadays, ambient music is what I breath and it’s actually thanks to being involved in the free improv scene I managed to apply a working method for my ambient music that is equally on the spot and surprising than any of the improvised music I do. It still is course a different music style so naturally it requires different playing techniques but both sides of the spectrum I just love to be in.”
What do you mean when you say “vintage ambient music”?
“The term is a wink to the old-school ambient scene in which I was active in the late eighties till the late nineties. Much changed over time, going from outboard hardware instruments like synths, sequencers, mutli-track recording on tape, analog mixing desks to the younger generation that works solely on a laptop computer. I am happy that I was able to perform a technique for myself that still resembles the style of ambient music I created with Vidna Obmana while trimming down the set-up to just one Carefully selected electric guitar and a handful of pedals. The way of playing, layering the tonalities and having them shift slowly over time is just that what I did with Vidna Obmana on synths and all the tools in my studio. Therefore, the reference to the vintage style of playing the ambience”
What do you like to explore with your side-projects Fear Falls Burning and Microphonics?
“Microphonics is definitely a closed book but with Fear Falls Burning ideas are forming to do another record and it surely will be the ‘band’ approach again. Hopefully I’ll be able to record some material over the course of this Summer.”
Which bands/labels/music magazines would you highlight from the early 80s?
“There are plenty as the eighties were just such an inspiring and creative period. To highlight a few musicians and bands: Giancarlo Toniutti, Joy Division, Test Department, early The Cure, Maurizio Bianchi, Chris & Cosey and even early Simple Minds. Labels like Factory, Broken Flag, RRRecords, Sub Rosa, Staalplaat and Projekt.”
Which were the sources of inspiration for the making of your latest “Fluctuation Of Being” album?
“Being here and now. I mean, despite still a lot of people will probably deny or refuse to accept it, we are living in an intense period and already for a long time. Absolutely don’t want to go politically here but the pressure ‘On us, all the impulses we’ve to digest is just sometimes too much to handle and makes you shift your life almost constantly. This album is just about that, the constant twists of the mind under impulse of daily life.’”
On Fear Falls Burning’s Bandcamp page you pointed out “a musical meditation on purity and subdued power” What does it mean?
“Wow, that’s a long time since I read that definition but back then after completing the Vidna Obmana story I really wanted to pursue something different. Fear Falls Burning still has connotations to what I did previously but the approach was different, less studio-oriented but real-time guitar manipulations through a vast array of pedal effects. The focus was on playing simple motives on the guitar while the effects brought everything into play and constructed the full guitar soundscape. Fear Falls Burning was way more powerful than Vidna Obmana ever was, louder and more intense but at the same time it was about the detailed research in what the electric guitar could produce, from the tiniest sounds to the full-on wash of tones. That said, Fear Falls Burning slowly over time, due to My ongoing urge to experiment, turned into a band project that features several key players from the metal, post-metal and free improv. scene. More to come for sure.”
What would you highlight the most from these 30 years dedicated to music?
“It’s difficult to pick one but generally seen I’m most proud of how I have been able to create my own identity while maintaining my independency. Nothing is original but in this all you can still work and make the efforts to realize your own voice and this is what I’ve done from day one. Of course, I always have been ambitious to share my music with as many listeners possible, this is something you decide upon when you start releasing your work but never, I wanted to follow the straight path and rely on a particular success. The number surely dropped when the highly successful cd retail collapsed in the late nineties, due to the arrival of streaming, but luckily there’s still a dedicated audience adventurous enough to follow me on this journey of constant exploration. And the fact that I’ve been able to work together with such talented international musicians, through various genres, while others seem to follow that and be inspired by, confirms that I probably am doing some interesting stuff. From my solo work, the free improv band KODIAN TRIO (with Colin Webster and Andrew Lisle) to the culmination of all YODOK III (with Tomas Järmyr and Kristoffer Lo).”
Buy FLUCTUATION OF BEING here. Visit the MIDIRA RECORDS website here.
ECHOES AND DUST REVIEW : “A mere fourteen years after their first full collaborative release, Dirk Serries and Justin K Broadrick have finally come together to form a “band”, under the guise Loud As Giants. By their own admission, they are not looking to reinvent the wheel with Empty Homes, more pay homage to the music they grew up loving. To call it a vanity project seems overly harsh, and this dose of friendly self-indulgence will be hugely welcomed by many.
It very quickly becomes clear that this is quite a departure from their previous offerings, starting most obviously with the presence of drums (of the machine variety, of course). From the Broadrick side, he slips into the celestial musings of Jesu. These drape over a backdrop of Serries’ lush looped drones as the aforementioned percussion drives each track forward with a slight nod towards the motorik pulsing of krautrock.
There is an ease with which these two amble through the 46 and a half minutes of Empty Homes. The whole record is somewhat unhurried, the sense of comfort infused within the music undeniable. From the 80s-tinged electronics of the opening track ‘Monument’, through to the ambient swirls of the final ‘Isolation’, every element they draw in fits so snuggly.
Already, Loud As Giants seems like it has been around for years. The familiarity of the music, albeit separate until now, is both a blessing and a curse: the opportunity feels missed for two of the leading exponents in the scene to create something truly unique and special, an album that could transcend what either has done individually. Yet Empty Homes is still a magical ride, deftly sliding into old favourite territory.”
DAMUSIC REVIEW : “Als je de namen Justin K. Broadrick en Dirk Serries ziet opduiken, weet je dat je je niet moet verwachten aan doorsnee drieminutenpopsongs. Dat is met Loud As Giants niet anders.
Dat de twee elkaar (terug)vonden is zo gek nog niet. Ze kennen elkaar al lang genoeg, van toen de ene nog als Fear Falls Burning door het muzikale leven ging en in het voorprogramma van de andere, toen als Jesu, speelde. Nu wilden ze de gedeelde liefde voor bepaalde genres uit de eighties op muziek zetten.
Vier tracks van elk rond de tien minuten. Geen enkele stem, geen solo’s, geen refreinen en strofes. Sfeer is waar het hier om draait. En de wazige, nachtelijke foto op de cover van het album geeft al een indicatie van wat voor sfeer u mag verwachten. De pandemie, die we net zijn doorgeworsteld, was de ideale voedingsbodem voor de donkere soundscapes, die u aangeboden krijgt.
Het principe is eenvoudig en toch zo efficiënt. Elke song krijgt een ritmiek opgelegd in een (elektronisch) drumpatroon, waarover de twee protagonisten de gitaren breed uitsmeren in een waas van uiteraard eveneens door gitaren gecreëerde ruis. Repetitie is de sleutel, waarmee de songs worden ontsloten. En trance is het resultaat. Je kan dit op eindeloze repeat zetten en het toch niet beu worden.
Soms herken je gitaren effectief als gitaren. Zoals aan het einde van opener Monument, wanneer het instrument even boven de modderige waters uit komt. Maar meestal wordt het snaarinstrument gedrenkt in een overdosis effecten en toch stoort dat niet. Net daar zit hem de kracht van deze plaat. Je wordt erdoor meegesleept zonder echt te kunnen verklaren waarom.
Estranged is donkerder, al is het maar omdat enkel de kickdrum wordt gebruikt, waarover ronkende gitaren de mist van distortie doorklieven. En dan is er nog het ontwrichtende Room 3, waarin de gitaren ongestoord verder ruisen over een lichte lading elektronica tot ze vervagen tot een lichte nevel, die uiteindelijk ook optrekt en enkel de dreunende bastoon overlaat.
“I love isolation, but only when chosen by me”, legt Broadrick uit en het laatste nummer moet dat nog onderstrepen. Er hangt een postpunkerige nevel over deze track, die door de elektronische, stuiterende drums wordt verstoord tot de gitaren het weer overnemen met in de rug nog meer hoppende elektronica. Het maakt van het nummer onze favoriet van vier stukken, die elk een heel eigen karakter hebben.
Het is duidelijk dat in Loud As Giants Serries en Broadrick elkaar aanvullen met een plaat, die op je adem pakt, als resultaat.”
LUMINOUS DASH REVIEW : “Zo’n dertien jaar geleden werkten Dirk Serries en Justin K. Broadrick al eens samen, toen als Fear Falls Burning en Final, het eerste een project van Serries, het andere van Broadrick. Die laatste kennen we uiteraard als de bezieler van Godflesh maar onder meer ook als Jesu.
Met Jesu en Final betreedt Broadrick het meer experimentele pad. Donkere ambient en drones met een sporadische beat. Een hernieuwde samenwerking met Serries (onder meer Vidna Obmana), die een al even grote duizendpoot is als Broadrick en ook met een immens oeuvre op zijn naam staat onder diverse aliassen, kon aldus niet uitblijven.
Beide muzikanten hebben uiteraard een drukke agenda, mede door tal van projecten waar ze zich mee inlaten. Het juiste ogenblik vinden, er eens goed voor gaan zitten en dan uit de losse pols een aantal intrigerende soundscapes in elkaar zetten, daar komt het een beetje op neer.
Deze keer wordt het album en de samenwerking niet als vanuit twee aparte entiteiten gepresenteerd, maar als een band: Loud As Giants. Luid zal het zeker zijn als deze twee deze nummers live zullen brengen. Broadrick is geen man voor de zachte hand en Serries, die tegenwoordig regelmatig aan verstilling doet, houdt er wel van om eens alles los te laten en volop voor het steviger werk te gaan.
In de vier lange stukken zijn beider invloeden goed hoorbaar. Serries dronet er lekker op los terwijl Broadrick met diepe basgeluiden en andere tierlantijnen de boel opfleurt. De insteek: isolatie, de leegheid van de stad in de nacht, lege huizen (iedereen slaapt of is weg) en het in vraag stellen van de kleine ruimte waar we elke dag onze tijd in passeren. Deze ideeën vormen de achterliggende gedachte bij het project Loud As Giants.
Beiden voelen elkaar heel goed aan. Ze kennen elkaar dan ook al sinds Fear Falls Burning eens de support deed van Jesu, decennia geleden. Maar ook daarvoor hadden beiden al veel respect voor elkaars werk toen ze beiden apart veel nummers bijdroegen aan allerlei cassettes in de tijd van tape-trading. Dat is duidelijk te merken aan de coherentie van deze plaat.
Slepende en gevarieerde drones die prima werken in het avondlicht of op momenten voor de vroege vogels het heft weer in handen nemen.”
IYEZINE REVIEW : “Loud As Giants sono una coppia di musicisti di cui basta il nome per capire che la materia trattata è di alta qualità : Justin K. Broadrick e Dirk Serries.
L’inglese Broadrick è rimasto coinvolto in progetti quali i i Godflesh, Napalm Death, Jesu, Techno Animal ( uno dei suoi dischi di avanguardia più ardita), per non citarli tutti. Il belga Dirk Serries è un’esploratore sonoro, dedito ad ambient e drone perlopiù, ma senza disdegnare altri ambiti, ha realizzato molti lavori a nome vidnaObmana, e ha collaborato con molti nomi fra i quali lo stesso Broadrick, Steven Wilson, Justin K. Broadrick, Cult Of Lunar e Steve Roach, e possiede una cultura musicale davvero ampia, come è ampia la sua visione sonora. Broadrick e Serries si erano conosciuti quando il belga come Fear Falls Burning aveva supportato gli Jesu.
I due avevano già in mente di tornare a collaborare insieme facendo un disco che potesse contenere la loro passione verso la musica anni ottanta, quella con cui sono cresciuti e con la quale hanno capito che il suono sarebbe stato il loro futuro. E i due con “Empty homes” in uscita per Consouling Sounds hanno fatto molto di più, dando vita ad un suono nuovo : siamo dalle parti del drone ambient ma con bellissimi intarsi anni ottanta, come se i synth degli ottanta si fossero persi nelle nebbie di una catastrofe nucleare, o ancora peggio, nel sole pallido di un mattino come tutti gli altri.
I Loud As Giants elevano un muro del suono notevole che ha al suo interno mille intarsi, partendo da una radiazione di fondo sulla quale si estendono sintetizzatori o giri drone di chitarra, ma è sempre un sottofondo di sintetizzatori che puntella il tutto, ora scomparendo, ora riapparendo in fondo alla strada come la macchina assassina senza conducente.
Il disco ha una musicalità non conforme, né comune, agisce per vie traverse, in alcuni passaggi è illuminante come i primi minuti di “Room three”, ogni canzone possiede gli stessi elementi che ricombinati danno sempre soluzioni diverse, soprattutto grazie alla bravura dei due musicisti che hanno un terzo orecchio che capta frequenze che gli altri umani non percepiscono.
Ascoltare “ Empty homes” è come attraversare mille stanze di mille case, passando in una nebbia che contiene le esistenze di tutti quelli che hanno vissuto in quelle stanze, perché le case sono a volte luoghi spaventosi, pregni delle paure e delle gioie di chi ci è passato prima di noi, e non è facile. Tutto ciò, e molto altro, è dentro questo disco che ha un tempo ed un ritmo tutto suo, con moltissime cose tipiche di Broadrick, di ciò che lo rende un musicista unico ed irripetibile, un minimo comune denominatore di musiche fantastiche che continuano a stupire ad ogni disco.
Serries compie un grandissimo lavoro con giri di chitarra che sembrano provenire direttamente dal cielo, e musicalmente è un’anima gemella di Broadrick, con il quale si capiscono al volo e ci regalano questo capolavoro. “Empty homes” è un sogno, un cadere all’indietro nel tempo, con solidissime radici nell’anima synth degli anni ottanta, dalle quali si parte per rielaborare il tutto e trovare una nuova via attraverso quattro sinfonie che hanno un ritmo ed un tempo tutto loro, qui è un’altra dimensione.
Il disco è da assaporare e meditare, con quei battiti quasi techno salmodiati qui è là, quelle aperture magnifiche ed un magmatismo costante.”
THE SLEEPING SHAMAN REVIEW : “Homes fascinate me; the rooms we dwell in and spend our existences in, I can’t quite compute it nor articulate it, but I feel it’s all full of loss and emptiness…’ – Justin K Broadrick.
Another month and another new release from the ever-restless mind of Godflesh and Jesu ringmaster Justin K Broadrick in the form of the Loud As Giants debut Empty Homes.
The project itself is the collaboration between the inimitable Broadrick and long-time friend, Belgium composer Dirk Serries who has released a huge swath of dark ambient music dating back to the early eighties and is possibly best known for his work under the Fear Falls Burning moniker.
For those unfamiliar with Fear Falls Burning, Serries sought to carve out minimalist meditations on purity and subdued power through a combination of percussive elements and an expansive array of studio tools and instruments to craft expansive drones. It is this symbiosis that drew the two artists to a mutual appreciation of each other’s work that led them to tour (Fear Falls Burning supporting Jesu) and release the avant-garde Final + Fear Fall Burning album in 2009
Some thirteen years after their last project together, Loud As Giants finally emerges from the back burner to try and convey a whimsical feeling of nostalgia for their fascination with the ‘80s culture they both grew up in. Backdropped by the pandemic and the modern-age notion of isolation, there is a strange detached sense of disquiet that drives the heart of this mesmerizing project that doesn’t seek to dramatically revolutionize music, or even break new ground, as it often feels like a quiet, aimless drive through places you once knew.
Comprising of just four instrumental tracks that make up the forty-six-minute running time, each offering is a movement in and of itself that works alongside the other pieces, not to generate any stand-out moments, but to weave and interplay as they conjure the overarching narrative the duo seeks to tell.
The first of these, Monument, begins tentatively as an almost underlying hum that grows into indie light guitar and pulsing drums that capture a feeling of space and light, like the sun breaking over the horizon in the morning, or an empty road lit by streetlights. Both of these images have been cited as scenes that conjure an emptiness and a sense of despair in the eyes of Broadrick. The swirling atmospherics advance the music at a granular level of progression as in his work with Jesu, focusing on how the music makes you feel, rather than looking to grab your attention with a scything hook. The seemingly meandering passages give your mind the chance to wander and surrender to memories.
Estranged taps into the feeling of alienation with a harder and darker industrial edge; as the harsher synths and ominous, urgent drum patter give way to more cavernous ringing that generates a feeling of being very small in a larger world. In comparison to the first track, Estranged feels distinctly urban and claustrophobic in the same way that the futuristic scenes of Blade Runner reek of a crumbling decay under the surface despite the technology before your eyes. It is all at once alien, alienating, and unsettling as it ends with the finality of a cassette-like switch-off.
Broadrick and Serries have become masters at enveloping their listeners in dense walls of sound…
Room Three seeks to redress the balance, calling back to the rich guitar tones of the opener whilst the electronic dub percussion shuffles and thumps underneath like the world is waking and speeding up around you. No less focused and personal, Broadrick and Serries weave textures, slowly introducing sonic variations through the music that can often invoke, depending on your mood, different emotions.
The final moments linger on as the fuller sounds of the piece are stripped away leaving you once again in drifting contemplation, the feeling of loneliness apparent after the swell of the fuller sounds.
As the sci-fi film score-like sounds rise and swell on the final offering Isolation with fleeting beats and recirculating drones, it is easy to view Empty Homes as a conceptual piece of art. At times it appears cold, like the absence of comfort after recalling a memory of previous times, but also the sense that life around you has moved on.
Broadrick, when commenting on the inspiration behind the project, talked of embracing isolation when it is chosen, not forced. In this day of scattered family, remote working, and an ever-divided world, these instances become thrust upon us, but conversely, with the ever-present technology that keeps us connected, the chance and choice to get away and meditate in the stillness can be equally good for the soul.
This is very much a project concerned with the aesthetic principles on which it was founded and one that has been considered through the choices made in composition. Both Broadrick and Serries have become masters at enveloping their listeners in dense walls of sound, whether they are as light as air or thunderous in delivery, and here they capture the very real sense of emptiness, isolation, and nostalgia without it ever becoming an oppressive chore.
For all the downtrodden descriptions and appearance of ideas Loud As Giants found as inspiration, there is a gossamer-light touch and undeniable beauty to what they have captured that doesn’t demand of their audience, it simply invites you into the stillness to take from it what you will.”
AT THE BARRIER REVIEW : “Loud As Giants is Justin K. Broadrick and Dirk Serries – “our collaboration not to invent new music but just to bring together the music we grew up with, were/are inspired by and we just like to do ourselves,” says Dirk. They’ve also referred to Empty Homes as a trip down memory lane as they head back into the mists of times to reboot their mutual fascination for 80s culture and the genres that influenced and shaped their formative years.
However, don’t worry about any stereotypical 80s fashion faux pas or an emphasis on synthetic sounds and heavily processed drums. Four ten-minute-plus pieces of experimental, post-rock drones and ambiance bring those 80s influences into a contemporary setting and create an immersive experience. Monuments is probably worth the admission price alone. An ominous pounding beat provides the platform on which to create swirls and swathes of hypnotic cadences. Easy to see how the arrangement can create an entrancing journey.
Estranged takes a more slow build approach. Almost four minutes of distant industrial atmosphere finally gives way to another pulse that’s barely detectable beneath some grinding chords. Again, distance and space is paramount, cinematic in the sense that the piece soundtracks something imminent, a sense of suspense. Room Three sees a cyclical pattern build as some shiny metallic ambience and busy skittering get treated to the regular punctuation of a synthesized pulse before it outstays its welcome. Visually, it evokes the waves of a tide that rolls in as far as it can go before ebbing and retreating back – or, should you wish, the ominous rumble of some portent of natural disaster. Consoling sounds – you can see where the record label helps!
Isolation – as claustrophobic as the title – brings things to a conclusion. Again, a jungle of dense and bass drones concludes with hints of the ring of She Sells Sanctuary making the ears prick up right at the finale. A project that has been in the pipeline for years, due to conflicting schedules and their prolific careers, a fully deserved release.”
GRIND ON THE ROAD REVIEW : “Loud As Giants è il nuovo progetto di Justin K. Broadrick dei Godflesh, figura imprescindibile per chi, come me, è nato musicalmente sotto l’ala protettiva della Earache Records, etichetta che a cavallo tra gli Ottanta e i Novanta ha rivoluzionato il concetto di estremismo in musica. In attesa del nuovo album dei Godflesh, previsto per l’inizio di giugno, ecco arrivare il debutto per questa sua ennesima creazione, in coppia con Dirk Serries. Liaison che sublima il loro rapporto, nato negli anni Ottanta quando, entrambi agli esordi in ambito sonoro, furono tra i primissimi a scambiarsi materiale in cassetta in ambito industrial noise e sperimentale. Dopo decenni di reciproca stima hanno deciso, grazie anche alla sosta imposta dalla pandemia, di dare vita a un qualcosa che potesse concretizzare il loro rapporto a distanza.
Loop armonici ridotti a pochissime note per un approccio che nonostante il cambio di sonorità, decisamente meno industrial rispetto al passato di Broadrick, mantiene comunque una certa assonanza con la paranoica ripetitività, quasi ossessiva dei Godflesh dei tempi migliori. Ad arricchire il tutto, il tocco dark ambient di Serries che smorza la tensione claustrofobica del compare britannico. Si tratta di due musicisti decisamente versatili, che qui hanno scelto di mettersi uno al servizio dell’altro, con fine di realizzare un qualcosa che potesse suonare “diverso” pur mantenendo chiare le origini e l’approccio di entrambi. Lo hanno infatti definito come una sorta di “viaggio della memoria”, con cui ritrovare quelle sonorità degli anni Ottanta con cui sono cresciuti, oltre che un tributo a quelle che sono stati le loro influenze giovanili.
Empty Homes è un qualcosa che era in fermentazione da tempo, ma che solo ora ha preso la sua forma definitiva, unendo le due idiosincratiche figure che non hanno mai nascosto la propria sociopatia, fatta di situazioni ai margini della frenetica e confusionaria vita di città sovraffollate. La colonna sonora ideale per tutti noi che abbiamo scelto di autoemarginarci.”
VITAL WEEKLY REVIEW : “One of the things about Loud As Giants is, oddly perhaps, that it isn’t that loud, or, to be more precise, not that loud all the time. Behind this name is the duo of Dirk Serries and Justin K. Broadrick. They both have a long and richly varied musical history. They worked together before, thirteen years ago, to be precise, using their monikers, Final (Broadrick) and Fears Falls Burning (Serries’ guitar project from back then). I don’t think I heard that one. There wasn’t a follow-up because of the usual busyness on both sides. The pandemic made it possible to work again, and maybe we should think of the title as something related to that. Broadrick likes isolation, but only if he can choose to be isolated. Well, don’t we all? I assume through the exchange of sound files, these two men worked on an album that sounds very coherent. They could have been in one room and still sounded as coherent. The loudness is an option here, or at least, that’s how I like to see these things. Sure, you can turn up the volume and be all-immersed in the music, but that’s not my style. I like immersion as much as the next person but I like my ears to last. Plus, sometimes, I like to think that the devil is in the details. By not going all the volume-way, I think (!) I can detect a few more details. Broadrick and Serries play the electric guitar, and there are some electronic drums. The interest lies within the minimalist approach to guitar drones. A rockist sound such as it is, and that is mainly due to the hammering of the slightly distorted drum machines, I should think. The guitars get strummed, chords (I think, as I have never understood the mechanics of guitar playing), I reckon, and not (e-) bowed, even when in ‘Estranged’, there is a nagging organ-like sound too. There is some intense music to be enjoyed here, loud or less loud, but it is music rich in details and depth, hammering away but always shifting around, never too long in a stasis. Just the way we like them. Now the pandemic has moved away, it would be interesting to see these things on a big stage, as by the time the music was over, I was kinda curious to hear this live (I admit I turnd the volume up); or should that be: as intended?”
SALT PEANUTS REVIEW : “Belgian experimental guitarist Dirk Serries and British singer-songwriter-guitarist-sound artist Justin K. Broadrick (founder of the experimental metal bands Godflesh and Jesu) are adventurous sound explorers who are in sync since the early eighties when they both were active in the underground cassette network, individually producing experimental, industrial, and noise music. They worked together in the last decade when Broadrick did the remixes for Serries’ ambient project Vidna Obmana, and reconstructions for Serries Continuum project and collaborated in Serries’ Microphonics and Fear Falls Burning projects. But their duo project under the moniker Loud As Giants is more like ‘a trip down memory lane’, symbolizing their mutual fascination for the 80’s culture in which they grew up and all the relevant and groundbreaking genres Serries and Broadrick were influenced by. Empty Homes is informed by the Covid-19 pandemic isolation and the global nostalgia of that time. It features four dark and mostly dramatic, ambient soundscapes that meet drones, layered and looped with noisy and distorted, industrial sounds and heavy, tribal pulses. These hypnotic and addictive, sometimes play with atmospheric, techno-like beats («Room Three»), other times with unsettling, dense and urban massive walls of sounds («Estranged») or with cinematic, suggestive and comforting images («Isolation») relating to the images of empty homes, as far as possible from the busy centers of big cities and overcrowded streets, and Broadrick claims that all these pieces are «full of loss and emptiness». And suppose we borrow an immortal saying of the Chinese Daoist sage Lau Tzu (already used in the album of Jesu and Serries, Resolution Heart, Toneafloat, 2016). In that case, Series and Broadrick are kindred spirits that “move in utter emptiness. let their minds meander in the great nothingness»”
GHOSTCULT MAG REVIEW : “While it is somewhat disingenuous and sneaky to include Loud As Giants Empty Homes (Consouling Sounds) in an EP’s round-up, it is only four songs, even if the shortest of these tickles the eleven-minute mark. It is also far too good and interesting a release to sit idly by without a home to recommend it on these hallowed pages.
A predominantly minimalist combination of post-rock, electronics, drone, and beats, this forty-five-minute collaboration of Justin Broadrick (Godflesh / Jesu et al) and Dirk Serries (Fear Falls Burning) manages to be both immersive soundtrack, comforting background, and challenging thought-provoker all at once. Never rushing, never forced, each of the four songs establishes and expands on a feeling and a slightly different theme to its companion pieces, like four episodes of a series that, although linked, doesn’t have an overriding story arc.
Opening and closing pieces (‘Monument’ and ‘Isolation’ respectively) are the less intrusive moments, ‘Estranged’ builds with ominous intent without ever giving way to full horror, and ‘Room Three’ perhaps gives off the greatest set of urgency and unsettlement. With a concept involving the feelings and emotions of different rooms in empty houses, and musically being a vehicle for Serries and Broadrick to collaborate on the type of music they grew up with, the reflective and patient nature of Loud As Giants’ music is both entrancing and inviting.”
DIRK SERRIES, in promotion of the LOUD AS GIANTS’ EMPTY HOMES album, has been doing several interviews as well these (video) podcasts. Some of them brief, another lengthy and very detailed on lots that has been part of Dirk Serries’ 3 decades plus repetoire.
Loud As Giants: “It has taken a long time to release this project but, when we hit this sound, we both knew this was it.”
Justin K. Broadrick and Dirk Serries talk to us about how their experimental musical minds came together for their crushing new project, Loud As Giants.
If you’re a fan of really experimental, niche extreme music, then the names Justin K. Broadrick and Dirk Serries should be very familiar. The former has a musical CV which includes industrial heavyweights Godflesh along with Jesu and Final, while Serries can be heard on Fear Falls Burning and Vidna Obmana.
It was inevitable that these two musical minds would cross paths at some point throughout their careers. Finally, after multiple delays, scheduling and COVID, the pair have dropped the crushing Empty Homes EP (out via Consouling Sounds) under the moniker Loud As Giants.
In our latest Cover Story, we speak with both Justin and Dirk to find out about the project, the inspiration behind the music and what their future plans are for the heavy beast that is, Loud As Giants.
Thanks for your time; let’s get talking about Loud As Giants, then. Justin said now is the right time for the project. Can you expand on why you think that is?
Dirk Serries: “If you look at both our busy work schedules, it’s never the right time, but for us both, it was though the best moment in our extensive careers to work on this one. Like I said many times before, we both are musical chameleons with several different projects under our wings, so most essential was to finally come up with a consensus in which direction we would focus. From there on, it went fast and smooth.”
Justin K. Broadrick: “It was really the right time to finally release it. It has taken a long time to release this project, and it went through a number of different concepts over the years, but when we hit this sound, we both knew this was it.”
“It has taken a long time to release this project, and it went through a number of different concepts over the years, but when we hit this sound we both knew this was it.”
Loud As Giants has been on the backburner for a while. How much did COVID and the lockdown affect the timelines you had for releasing Empty Homes?
Dirk: “Absolutely. Despite Justin and I still had quite a lot of work on our hands during the two years COVID took over, but it definitely gave us both some extra space to finally start working on our duo collaboration.”
Justin: “Yes, the lockdowns actually made this happen. Fortunately for us; I personally was able to focus on the beat and bass aspect, which we agreed could centre the project, so to speak, without having to perform this gave me the time to work this without the draining performance aspect obstructing me. Of course, the pandemic was entirely destructive, so there wasn’t much to be gleaned that was positive from that whole experience.”
Musically, the EP fits with the isolation of the past few years. Did your feelings and experiences of the past few years inspire the four tracks?
Dirk: “I think every bit that happens in your life triggers the music you want to make or are creating. While it definitely refers as well to the era of music in the early eighties we both like so much, somehow the current predicament the world is in is quite similar and strangely inspires. It’s like Winter vs Summer.”
Justin: “I agree, and I feel like this album will remind me of the emptiness and sadness of that universal isolation, but regardless of that of that being enforced, I was happy to not engage with the outside world nor travel it suited the fact that I am autistic perfectly.”
You both obviously have a very strong creative connection but has Dirk shared similar feelings of isolation with Justin during the pandemic?
Dirk: “Oh yes, like I said before, I think both are very passionate musicians who get influenced, inspired and motivated by the circumstances around us. Not per sé that our music is politically or socially motivated, but surely it all gets in there, and that level, we both are quite alike. And also, we walked almost the same trajectory, so that makes us more alike than with most collaborators.”
Justin: “Yeah, we are both very much aware of our environments and reflect and express this through our art; we create environments for people to inhabit.”
Justin talked about his love of the night, empty streets, the quiet. What is that puts you at your happiest in those settings, and do you share those feelings, Dirk?
Dirk: “Oh absolutely, maybe strange to write here, but I like the secluded and abandoned, less people, the better J and nights trigger that even more while it also changes your senses too. Everything gets accentuated.”
Justin: “It has been a thing for me since I was a child, but it also is common among many autistic people, which I found out once diagnosed; being so attuned to our immediate environments mostly means overload, and being constantly overwhelmed on the day time, the night affords me this space – I am very aware of the streets being empty and people being in their homes asleep, I love this feeling and feel more undisturbed – I am completely aware of this emptiness and revel in it.”
“For Empty Homes we really wanted to pay tribute to the old school industrial and electronic albums with blurred black & white pictures and a sort of vintage character in the printing.”
Do you feel those are the best settings for someone to fully appreciate the experience of listening to Loud As Giants?
Dirk: “Loud (laughs).”
Justin: “(laughs) Yes! I agree with Dirk, but a dark, dimly lit space, very little distractions, would be best, I feel for total immersion…”
Going back to the start of the project, how did those initial conversations between you both come about, and what was the early vision for Loud As Giants?
Dirk: “Of course, we worked together before so no surprises there, but I think the complexity of starting with a brand-new project is to decide whether this is a genre-based project or just a collaboration that can go into multiple directions. We first talked about an industrial project, and while I still think you can hear a bit of that still in our first outing, Empty Homes is a culmination of many impulses. And in the end, we didn’t talk about the style after all and just recorded the music.”
Justin: “Yes, as Dirk says, we discussed many options instead of working through them; eventually, Dirk sent me such beautiful guitar work that it inspired a whole ’other’ direction, so to speak; setting this to rhythm and bass was a not-so-obvious route we felt, usually guitar drones of this calibre will exist in an beatless and bassless state, we wanted to turn that stereotype on its head.”
You say that Loud As Giants doesn’t want to reinvent music but is more like a trip down memory lane. What memories did working on this project conjure up for you both?
Dirk: “For me, definitely the philosophy and character of the eighties and the cassette network Justin and I played an active part in. The no-nonsense character, everything goes, and the pure DIY style of releasing music. It was just a very inspirational period, and I think our duo just somehow reminds me of that. I mean the respect between us is a vital part of what our collaboration is about. Just passion to share sounds and create something together we both can be proud of. Exactly like it was back then. The rest was and is all incidental.”
Justin: “Yes, we’re tapping into all our resources, but it naturally moved into a timeless area of the 80s somehow, when music felt really creative and moved in many ways without the conventional trappings; less formulated and conservative, free.”
Do you remember the albums and bands that brought you both together creatively?
Dirk: “On a personal level, Justin’s FINAL has been the first project I got introduced to back then and through what he released on Post Mortem. It was only later on I found out that Justin was behind Godflesh, etc.”
Justin: “I purchased an album that I’ve loved ever since by Dirk, in 1992 – Vidna Obmana, revealed by composed nature – I was thrilled to meet him and work with him many years later! We share many of the same tastes – Industrial music of the ’80s, free jazz, ambient, and so on…”
Throughout your career, your music has always carried an equally harsh visual element – is this something that you will bring into Loud As Giants?
Dirk: “Also, here, I think this can really vary from album to album. For Empty Homes, we really wanted to pay tribute to the old-school industrial and electronic albums with blurred black & white pictures and a sort of vintage character in the printing. Who knows what the next one will be about?”
Justin: “Somewhat, whereas the beautiful visuals that Dirk’s partner supplied for this debut album are far from harsh and more representative of the neighbourhoods we inhabit, but without us/humans.”
What about a live show? Do you see Loud As Giants touring, and if so, how do you visualise that live show?
Dirk: “Personally I don’t see Loud As Giants as a touring band. I think it’s vital for us both to keep the music fresh and something that sits and breathes next to our other projects, without any kind of pressure. However, we’re playing DUNK! Festival (in Gent, Belgium) next month, so pretty excited about that, and we’ll see how that one goes.”
Justin: “We will play one-off performances; I particularly cannot tour; it doesn’t work for me, I can do small strings of dates but never a full tour, thankfully those days are gone for me due to it causing me such huge personal problems associated with my autism, but we will perform if the offer and setting is right for us, selectively.”
As two people who have many musical projects on the go, have you talked about future LAG releases?
Dirk: “No, absolutely not. Let us first enjoy this one, but I’m sure we’ll grab the chance of a follow-up when we’ve free time. There’s a lot of musical ground to cover.”
Justin: “For sure, as Dirk says, this took so long. I think we’re surprised we even got this out in the end! But we have no immediate plans, but we both love this trajectory and feel we can explore it much further.”
Thanks for your time; I appreciate you talking to us and want to leave it up to you to wrap up this conversation…
Dirk: “Thank you for the opportunity and for sharing Loud As Giants.”
VIDNA OBMANA’s latest reissue on the lovely Polish ZOHARUM label is receiving nice reviews. Here’s the latest in Gonzo Circus (printed magazine from Belgium/The Netherlands).
The album itself is still available from bandcamp :
“Slechts een handvol Belgen wisten zichzelf binnen te krijgen bij het gereputeerde Amerikaanse metal-label Relapse en/of sub-label Release Entertainment, maar Dirk Serries is het gelukt. Tussen 2001 en 2004 slaagde hij er namelijk in om er niet minder dan drie albums – deel van een trilogie gebaseerd op ‘La Divina Commedia’ van Dante Alighieri – uit te brengen : Tremor, Spore en Legacy. Serries toenmalige project kende in die periode duidelijk zijn hoogtepunt. Dat valt niet alleen vast te stellen door de muziek op zich – een geperfectioneerde mix van mysterieuze en hypnotiserende soundscapes en subtiele tribale ritmes – maar ook door de aanwezigheid van een aantal tot de verbeelding sprekende gasten zoals Steve Von Till (Neurosis), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) en oude kompaan Marc Verhaeghen (The Klinik). Serries bedient zich op die trilogie, naast E-bow, elektronische effecten en allerhande percussie-instrumenten, ook van flink wat exotische fluiten, zoals de fujara. Vanaf 2009 zou Serries als Fear Falls Burning zijn focus verschuiven naar de exploratie van de mogelijkheden van heavy gitaardrones. Tegenwoordig is hij een graag geziene gast in het internationale milieu van zogenaamde vrije muziekvormen, waaronder freejazz en improv. Het Poolse Zoharum is al een tijdje bezig met het heruitbrengen van de indrukwekkende discografie van Vidna Obmana. Zo ook deze trilogie. Volledig gemastered in een driedubbel overzicht, inclusief mooie foto’s van Martina Verhoeven. (swat)”
LOUD AS GIANTS – EMPTY HOMES (cd & lp, Consouling Sounds 2023)
“Loud as Giants to projekt znanych person ze świata muzyki niezależnej, Justina Broadricka (Godflesh, Jesu, Final) oraz Dirka Serriesa (Vidna Obmana, Fear Falls Burning). Myśląc o nich mam wrażenie, że panowie ci w ogóle nie śpią. Trudno nadążyć za nimi w odsłuchaniu ich kolejnych albumów i projektów. Informacja o ich wspólnych nagraniach bardzo pozytywnie mnie zaskoczyła. Artyści ci współpracowali już ze sobą remiksując swoje projekty, a także Fear Falls Burning otwierał koncert Jesu podczas trasy. Mówiąc o Loud as Giants, Dirk twierdzi, że zarówno dla niego jak i Justina, projekt ten to jakby podróż w przeszłość. Ma on symbolizować ich wzajemną fascynację kulturą lat 80., w której dorastali, oraz wszystkimi istotnymi i przełomowymi gatunkami, które wywarły na nich wpływ. „Nasza współpraca w LOUD AS GIANTS nie ma na celu wymyślania nowej muzyki, ale po prostu połączenie muzyki, przy której dorastaliśmy, byliśmy/jesteśmy inspirowani i którą po prostu lubimy sami tworzyć”. – wyjaśnia.
“Empty Homes” to album pełen rozmytych dźwięków wypełnionych melancholią oraz tęsknotą. Może ten „powrót do przeszłości” artystów spowodował o zabarwieniu ich muzyki nostalgią. Te, cztery utwory skonstruowane z gitarowych dronów i powtórzeń, zatopione w chłodnych tłach z dodatkiem minimalistycznego zbasowanego rytmu brzmią fantastycznie. Właściwie gra Dirka jak i Justina jest tak charakterystyczna, a ich brzmienia rozpoznawalne, że od pierwszej melodii możemy odgadnąć kto jest ich autorem. Faktycznie, tak jak stwierdził Dirk, tutaj nie ma nowej muzyki, nowych gatunków. To raczej dźwięki przestrzennego pejzażu zakotwiczonego w latach osiemdziesiątych jednak zrealizowanych w nowoczesny sposób. Słuchając Loud as Giants mam wrażenie przeniesienia się do czasów albumu “Garlands”, gdzie dominowały właśnie rozmyte gitary, które stwarzały też hipnotyzujące i chłodne tło. Oczywiście ta analogia jest tylko domyślna, a nie dosłowna. “Empty Homes” posiada całkiem inną strukturę utworów oraz jest to twór instrumentalny. Nagrania te jakby płynęły i rozpadały się w powietrzu, delikatność brzmień gitar przepięknie nawarstwia się w głęboką plamę. Jest to muzyka bazująca na granicy jawy i snu, a mocny, głęboki beat czasami budzi nas z dźwiękowego zawieszenia.
Loud as Giants i ich “Empty Homes” to kolejny album świadczący o wielkich zdolnościach Broadricka oraz Serriesa w przełamywaniu wszelkich barier w muzycznych gatunkach. Album ten zabiera nas w dość czarujące i hipnotyzujące krajobrazy. Wchłaniajcie jego oniryzm i senność, wsłuchujcie się w rytm brzmiący niczym kamienie uderzające w skały.”
LOUD AS GIANTS INTERVIEW WITH PSYCHEDELIC BABY MAGAZINE
Talking about the nature of Loud As Giants, Dirk Serries marks that for both him and Justin K. Broadrick the project is more like “a trip down memory lane.” Thirteen years after their collaboration as Fear Falls Burning and Final, these two kindred spirits return with an album that symbolizes their mutual fascination for the 80’s culture in which they grew up and all the relevant and groundbreaking genres Justin and Dirk were influenced by.
“Loud As Giants is our collaboration not to invent new music but just to bring together the music we grew up with, were/are inspired by and we just like to do ourselves.” – explains Dirk talking about his creative partnership with Broadrick: “So the appreciation has been there since the beginning, and I also think this is the foundation of our collaboration.
While been musically in sync since the early eighties when they both were active in the underground cassette network. Both with the highest appreciation for each other’s work for almost two decades, they finally met during a joint tour where Serries, as Fear Falls Burning, supported Jesu. Justin comments on the beginning of the long partnership with Dirk saying: “We had the concept of this project on the back burner for some years. It’s taken some time for it to take shape, but now we feel the time is right, and we have the right record in place.”
Pandemic, the isolation and global nostalgia became crucial factors that affected both artists carefully uniting together the release that became ‘Empty Homes’. “I love isolation, but only when chosen by me, but I love the night, again, empty streets, quiet, I feel like I can exist then. I hate mornings; I hate low sunlight. It immediately depresses me. This album for me embodies a world I personally feel happier in.” – explains Broadrick talking about a dream-like state, far from the busyness of big cities and overcrowded streets. While the image of empty homes united the musical and esthetic part reflected in the music: “Homes fascinate me; the rooms we dwell in and spend our existences in, I can’t quite compute it nor articulate it, but I feel it’s all full of loss and emptiness…”
“Loud As Giants is a project that truly can go any direction as long as it resembles our mutual passion”
How did you two first get to know each other 30 years ago when you ?
Dirk Serries: We met in person when the fantastic Belgian (now defunct) Conspiracy Records brought us together for the Jesu tour, promoting the ‘Conqueror’ album, with my Fear Falls Burning project as support. It’s there in the tour bus we started to talk, share experiences and realized that we knew each other’s music for many years. We both have been active in the early eighties in the underground experimental and industrial music cassette network, sharing labels we both were on. A better foundation to become friends and kindred creative spirits you couldn’t wish yourself. From there on we started to talk about working together. On that tour Justin started to play with me on the intro and outro during my support concerts.
Justin K. Broadrick: Yes, exactly as Dirk said, I think prior to this we possibly had an initial exchange on MySpace! And, one of my favourite ambient albums I bought in the early 90’s was Dirk as Vidna Obmana, the album ‘Revealed by Composed Nature,’ this has always been one of my favourite ambient albums of all times!
When was the initial idea behind Loud As Giants initiated and what was your overall vision of the project / sound?
Dirk: We always want to collaborate, whether it’s remixing each other’s music, participating with sources and additional layers of music to a project but it was after our Final and Fear Falls Burning album we started to think of a full collaboration under a new name. Initially we wanted to do a full-on industrial project but then it got expanded to a duo that reflects our love for the music of the early eighties. For us it’s a trip down memory lane, a project of nostalgia while at the same time a perfect time for us to join creative forces and re-create that love into a work that is significant for us together. Loud As Giants is a project that truly can go any direction as long as it resembles our mutual passion, in any which genre.
Justin: Dirk suggested the band title and doing something even more collaborative than our ‘Final + Fear Falls Burning’ collaboration from 2009. As Dirk says, we explored many ideas, then time went against us, which really was a benefit to readdress the project, thus arriving at this record.
Tell us how the collaboration for Fear Falls Burning and Final came about? Would you be able to draw parallels with Loud as Giants?
Dirk: Conceptually it was a totally different project. Both of our projects back then were already quite established so it was a matter of combining both visions together to make that collaboration work. While Loud As Giants has been more a project of finding the time and that exact moment when the music was created spontaneously, our Fear Falls Burning and Final collaboration was more of a straightforward and linear work. We just brought our musical worlds together in the strict concept of what our music then meant for us. Perhaps it sounds simple but actually it was a process that was smooth and easy to construct and finalize. Loud As Giants has been a dual project that started from scratch with even not knowing which style direction to take.
Justin: Yes, Loud As Giants was more measured and for us both I think a more pleasing collaboration than the Final / Fear Falls Burning, I personally would have approached my contributions differently now, at that time I was still searching for the identity of Final, which has been more satisfactory to me in the last two years only!
Both of you are very interested in a variety of music, if I may, are music nerds as I am. Would you like to take us back to the early days? What kind of records and fanzines would we find in your room? Tell us about some of those early influences that shaped who you become?
Dirk: From industrial, experimental electronic music to the cold and new wave that was being released back then. Coincident with the bleak atmosphere of that period, just think about the nuclear war threads, the terrorist attacks, social turmoil, huge unemployment, et cetera, but somehow it also sparked creativity and marked the eighties for Justin and myself as one of the most interesting phrases in music history. It’s pretty hard to pick out a favorite but thinking out loud I would say Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Test Department, Magazine, Test Department, Maurizio Bianchi, Asmus Tietchens, Blurt, Dome, Giancarlo Toniutti and so on. The music industry has changed extremely since then. Don’t want to sound like an old guy but back then it was a community, a platform of networking, exchanging music, et cetera and all this without the so-called glory of the internet.
Justin: Very much the same as Dirk! We both come from industrial/power electronics music from the early 80’s. Initially I was in punk bands in my first year of high school, then I discovered industrial music, but around 1985 I went full circle, and went back to abstract punk rock; my final project opened up to include my rediscovery after existing solely as an industrial/power electronics entity. It was this rediscovery that landed me as the main music writer in Napalm Death, after Nic Bullen discovered my return to punk roots Final demo in 1985. My initial obsession at the age of 8/9 was The Stranglers, due to my stepdad and mom being into punk rock in 1977 and having their own band Anti-Social. I also discovered much music from my stepdad, it led me to Crass and Discharge, then Killing Joke, and then onto industrial music – Throbbing Gristle, which immediately led me to Whitehouse and Ramleh. A very similar trajectory as Dirk. My stepdad’s love of Roxy Music led him to the solo work of Brian Eno, which I then discovered too…
One of the most fascinating concepts in counterculture is the underground cassette network you were both involved with. I would be delighted if you can take some time and reflect on underground tape culture in your country and abroad. What was it like to be part of the scene?
Dirk: The early eighties up till the early nineties was truly a fantastic period to be in. Creatively you had the cassette network which was, like I said before, a community of kindred spirits. People who wanted to do something different, fully independent and unique. From experimental music without boundaries to mail-art, everything was embraced with a vision that could be anything and nothing. With no internet at your disposal you had to be inventive to make contacts and this was through the postal system and the fantastic music and mail-art festivals. Here in Belgium you had them on a yearly basis as well in the Netherlands and I’m sure they were actually everywhere. The cassette network itself was a world-wide expanded circuit of small cassette labels. Labels and artists you could reach by sending them a letter, a package with your own music, including a IRC (an international reply coupon). Sometimes it looks like months to get a reply but that was actually the beauty and charm of the period. Nothing was short-lived, the network lived by the grace of the old postal system so the music, the creativity and the activities existed at a totally different pace we know now, and we’re actually forced to live by. But also to my humble opinion, the network was also way more adventurous than the music industry we know now. Everything was possible, music that was done with a minimal set-up of instruments, sometimes self-made, recorded in your own small bedroom, etc. The cassette releases you did yourself by duplicating copies, going to the copy center for your cover, cutting them by hand, et cetera. Everything was just fully self-controlled and made. The cassette network was also an important one since as a musician you learned everything from scratch. Aspects of learning craftsmanship: how to set up a label, how to promote your music, etc. You just became fully independent and this is still a vital experience in my current dealings with labels, promoters and venues.
Justin: I had a cassette label in 1984; Post Mortem Records, I was 13/14 yrs old. It released Final when we were 2 and some times more, we went through a number of names before I settled on Final, initially, when there were two of us, with my good friend Andy Swan, he called us Smear Campaign and our first show in 1984 was under this. Within 6 months my tape label had approx. 45 releases! At least 35 of them were my projects under a variety of different names! At 14 I already had numerous projects, and this is exactly as I continued with my obsession to this day! I was in contact with many labels and artists back then and released their material and they in turn released mine, some notables were Un Kommuniti and their label Black Dwarf Rekordings – we shared releases, the chief person there being Tim Gane who became central to Stereolab. I also released tapes by, and they in turn released mine, was the lovingly titled Anal Probe label, and their act Opera For Infantry who became the notorious The Grey Wolves, I also released some of the earliest tapes by Con Dom. Important note – I barely sold any tapes haha, but traded many…
You probably have a huge collection of tapes and records. Do you still go out and dig through piles of records these days? What are some of the latest finds?
Dirk: I still have a large collection but also sold or gave away a lot during the years. Some of them to my own regret though. But yes like to delve into my collection and re-experience some of the older music again. While some music has been on the shelf for a long time just because I wasn’t interested anymore, re-listening to them after a decade or so gives the music a different perspective. You experience the music differently and most of the time you do re-value that music as well, knowing when and how it was made. Some of my latest discoveries are Conrad Schnitzler’s ‘Conal’ (LP from 1981 on Uniton Records), AMM’s ‘AMMMusic 1966’ (LP from 1967 on Elektra) and Sleep Chamber’s ‘Submit To Desire’ (LP from 1985 on Inner X Music).
Justin: Exactly the same as Dirk! Bizarrely, the Conrad Schnitzler album Dirk mentions above we have never discussed, and this has been one of my favourite albums since the early 90’s ! I rarely visit stores these days; I’ve exhausted mostly everything! But I still thirst for music!
What are some of the most interesting tapes/records in your collection?
Dirk: I still have a some of the cassette and LP releases from the Broken Flag label (Gary Mundy’s Ramleh record label from the UK), some of the original Maurizio Bianchi records and of course some of favorite free jazz/free improvisation records from Derek Bailey, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler.
Justin: Again, very much the same as Dirk; I have valuable originals by Whitehouse/Come Organisation, Ramleh/Broken Flag, Throbbing Gristle, Maurizio Bianchi, and a lot of similar avant-jazz too!
Do you feel that ‘Empty Homes’ would sound differently without the pandemic? Have you found the isolation creatively challenging or freeing?
Dirk: Not sure, difficult to tell but perhaps it would have sounded different and if there was no pandemic it could easily have been the case that ‘Empty Homes’ wasn’t recorded due to our limited time we both have. Anyway, Justin and I are very happy it finally exists and that we were able to give birth to our Loud As Giants project. From here on the future will tell us where to go.
Justin: Besides the pandemic being a horror show in every respect, It gladly gave me the time to formulate and finalise my input on the Loud As Giants album, and to make the decision to include a rhythmic aspect, which may have not happened if i was performing a lot much like I was pre-COVID. I never run creatively dry thankfully, and hope I never do; I use the creative process as liberation from my mental health conditions – both autism and PTSD, of which I have been professionally diagnosed. I have to sometimes stop myself from creating, such is the endless river and the relief that creative process gives me.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Dirk: ‘(No Pussyfooting)’ by Fripp & Eno from 1973, a must for everyone and an album I can’t stop recommending – this is drone music avant la lettre.
‘La Mutazione’ by Giancarlo Toniutti from 1984, an unbelievable experimental record – remains one of my all-time favorites. It’s super moody and brilliantly constructed long form music.
‘Trance’ by Chris & Cosey from 1981, two members from Throbbing Gristle, but for here in top form with an experimental electronic album that just has the perfect balance between the industrial of Throbbing Gristle, the electronic side of Chris & Cosey and the experimentation of the early eighties.
‘Ascension’ by John Coltrane from 1966, for me personally the pivotal record that John Coltrane made – prime example of how far ahead he was and how free free jazz could be – essential listening.
‘Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call by Simple Minds from 1981, remains one of my favorite new wave albums – perfect songwriting, great sound production and a voice back then so unique – an album I return to almost every couple of months.
Justin: Interestingly, besides the Simple Minds albums, which I need to revisit in the future, I love every album Dirk shares with us above! Some recent discoveries have been: Atrax Morgue (I was ignorant of this period of industrial music in the 90’s due to my 80’s only industrial music obsession), David Gilden, Eric La Casa, Government Alpha, Beatriz Ferreyra, Richard Landry, Jumping Tiger, Joe McPhee, Werner Durand, Ariel Kalma, Ben Vida, K2, Dead Body Love, Matt Rösner, Thomas DeLio, Microcorps, Adrianne Lenker, Mlehst… all somewhat recent discoveries.
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
Dirk: I can only hope that music keeps on connecting people. We need it in this constantly polarizing world
Justin: Thank you for the interest! And I agree wholeheartedly with Dirk’s sentiments above!
LOUD AS GIANTS‘ EMPTY HOMES first review popped up on the fantastic BURNING AMBULANCE webzine !
While it’s likely to be overshadowed by the release of a new Godflesh record in June, Justin K. Broadrick has teamed up with Dirk Serries of Vidna Obmana and Fear Falls Burning in the collaborative duo Loud As Giants and their debut album Empty Homes is out this week. Despite the moniker, Loud As Giants isn’t trying to go toe-to-toe with Broadrick’s main unit in terms of heaviness. Instead, Empty Homes explores the intersection of drone and shoegaze.
It seems appropriate that the original idea for this project was spawned when Serries, as Fear Falls Burning, opened for Broadrick’s Jesu. For if Jesu revealed a more ambient and nuanced side of Broadrick’s approach to music and sound, Loud As Giants feels like a further abstraction of that concept. Fear Falls Burning, after all, was nothing if not abstract.
The album begins with “Monument.” Clouds of electronic haze rise from the silence and mingle, shifting in and out of each other, sometimes sounding like one sonic mass. A low bass drone soon joins in, presaging the arrival of more traditional instrumentation. A guitar riff slowly unfurls, and intriguingly, as it moves from one chord to the next, the previous notes continue to ring out underneath. While one could take an educated guess about the division of labor, the piece congeals into a cohesive whole.
“Estranged” is an exercise in slow build, the nebulous drones arriving like a storm on the horizon. The rhythm of this piece is accelerated but seems to translate into a feeling of floating rather than intensity. A heavily distorted guitar figure cuts through, but the song never feels like metal. Instead, the guitar is merely the lightning in the approaching clouds. A heavier drumbeat emerges in the back half of the tune, adding another layer of meditative intensity.
“Room Three” simultaneously nods to Broadrick’s techno persona JK Flesh while also coming the closest to shoegaze of anything on this record. Skittering cymbal work dances around bass thuds, but the drones remain soothing to the ear. This almost feels like the beginning of an Underworld tune, but the promised release never comes. The final two minutes strip away much of the sound and feel much more subdued, like falling asleep into a dream.
Empty Homes closes with the appropriately titled “Isolation.” The drones here sound like they are emanating from deep space, guided by a bit of electronic percussion. The guitar riff wouldn’t sound out of place on a Cure album but it fits well in this context as well. At times, a second guitar seems to provide a counterpoint, yet much like the drones, they seem to blend into amorphous unity.
While Justin Broadrick will forever be associated with his industrial-metal juggernaut Godflesh, to ignore everything else he’s done would be criminal. And his choice of collaborators can always send his fans down a rabbit hole of truly remarkable music, since their own artistic merit is without question. So add Derek Serries to a list that includes Kevin Martin, Jarboe, John Zorn, and many others. And add Empty Homes to the list of albums that you shouldn’t miss out on in 2023; it will be a wonderful complement to that new Godflesh album, and a highly rewarding experience on its own.
It might be strange that both darker periods also brought brightness and hope in the music of Loud As Giants, which shines through all the bleakness and despair that influenced the scoring of Empty Homes.
by Gavin Brown | April 25, 2023 | Interviews
Loud As Giants is the long awaited new project between Dirk Serries and Justin Broadrick and one that sees them bring a monumentally atmospheric, but ultimately bleak collection of music to life on debut EP Empty Houses. Having been both friends and admirers of each others work for many years, this new project has been a long time in the making but definitely worth the wait. To celebrate Loud As Giants and Empty Houses, Gavin Brown caught up with Dirk who told us all about this project and how it all came together as well as discussing his other vast range of musical projects.
Echoes and Dust can also proudly and exclusively premiere the track ‘Isolation’ from Empty Houses which you can find below.
E&D: The new EP with Justin Broadrick as Loud As Giants called Empty Houses is out at the end of the month. How did the creation of the EP go?
Dirk: It was a very long one. A bit intentionally but also just because we both have such immense busy schedules that it was hard to coordinate this. But also because we didn’t know yet which direction to take with our collaboration. It’s fair to say that Loud As Giants has been a process of almost 6 years.
E&D: Were you both in the studio at the same time it was it done by you both remotely?
Dirk: Again due to our conflicting schedules, we decided it was best to do this one in our own separate studios and actually the style of music we finally decided on was quite easy to do remotely.
E&D: How was the experience of working on new music together as Loud As Giants?
Dirk: Smooth. I mean, Justin and I already worked together quite frequently and we just knew how far you could stretch one thing or change some of the musical content without too much discussion or refusal. Like I said, I guess the coordination of getting us both in sync to eventually work on the album was the toughest part, musically it was just joy and very relaxed and stressless.
E&D: How did you and Justin first meet each other?
Dirk: The thing is that we knew each other’s music already for a very long time. We both have been active in the early eighties in the underground experimental and industrial music cassette network, sharing labels we both were on but we never knew each personally until that moment when the fantastic Belgian (now defunct) Conspiracy Records brought us together for the Jesu tour, promoting the Conqueror album, with my Fear Falls Burning project as support. It’s there in the tourbus we realised we knew and respected each other’s music for a really long time and that we walked similar artistic paths for a while. From there on we really became friends.
E&D: How did this project actually start in the first place and have you wanted to work with Justin again for a while now?
Dirk: It’s when we actually met on that Conqueror tour we start talking about doing music together for the first time. Playing together on stage as intro and outro during that tour, having Justin doing a remix of several of my solo pieces, etc. until our first collaboration which was a Final and Fear Falls Burning LP for Conspiracy Records in 2009. We never stopped talking about a new project together. Time wasn’t on our side.
E&D: What are your personal favourite projects that Justin has been a part of?
Dirk: I knew Justin from his Final project in the early eighties so that was the first encounter and remains probably my favourite of his. It was only later on that I started to listen to Godflesh and consequently Jesu, but Justin is an exceptional musician who really stands out as a versatile artist capturing the unique and best in various genres. Impressive.
E&D: The epic ‘Monument’ is the first track that you released from the EP. Did you fell that was the perfect way to introduce Loud As Giants?
Dirk: It’s our favourite, clear and simple so no better way to introduce our duo project with this one.
E&D: What have been the biggest influences on the music on the EP?
Dirk: It’s truly our love for the music of the early eighties that captured us in a mood to create this album. From industrial, experimental electronic music to the cold and new wave that was being released back then. Coincide with the bleak atmosphere of that period, just think about the nuclear war threads, the terrorist attacks, social turmoil, huge unemployment, etc., but somehow it also sparked creativity and marked the eighties for Justin and myself as one of the most inspiring phases in our lives. At the same time we finalised the album in the middle of one of the lockdowns and that also triggered the music. It might be strange that both darker periods also brought brightness and hope in the music of Loud As Giants, which shines through all the bleakness and despair that influenced the scoring of Empty Homes.
E&D: Are there plans for more Loud As Giants music in the near future, possibly a full length album?
Dirk: Let us first enjoy this one as it took a long time to make but I’m sure we’ll do another one and the chance is huge that the next one will be totally different. Justin and I just like pushing boundaries and trying out different genres to finally bring them together.
E&D: Have you talked about doing any live shows at all?
Dirk: Yes we have and we’ll play the Belgian DUNK! Festival on May 18th in Gent (Belgium) so pretty excited to do that one. Although Justin and I clearly agreed that Loud As Giants will never be a tour band. Occasional concerts here and there for sure, if the timing and opportunity is just right.
E&D: How would you say the music of Loud As Giants will translate into a live environment?
Dirk: That’s a good question. Since Loud As Giants up till now has been a studio project, recorded in our own separate ones, we are looking at this live event as that moment to re-creating tracks from the album with some serious artistic freedom. For sure the backbone will be clearly our album but live it will be more about experiment, interaction and expanding when we feel like it. Definitely excited but we are ready.
E&D: How did your debut UK solo live show in London go last year?
Dirk: I play the UK quite often but never did one performing my solo ambient music, despite doing this music (foremost on my alter-ego Vidba Obmana) since the mid eighties. So I really wanted to do it on my own terms. Hundred Years Gallery in London is foremost a fantastic DIY art gallery and a creative hub for free jazz and the free improvised. This is where I probably team up the most with my fellow musicians in the free improvisation. And the gallery was just the right little intimate venue for me where I could set up at my own pace and control every little bit of the performance. It was a blast. Intimate, close to the audience, the way I like it.
E&D: What other live shows have you got coming up that you can tell us about?
Dirk: So there’s of course Loud As Giants at DUNK! Festival this year on May 18th. I’ll do a solo ambient set at the Moving Noises festival in Bochum on April 22nd with my partner Martina Verhoeven we’ll play Cafe Oto in London on July 23rd creating a big band with several of our favourite UK free improvisers. Later on this year there’s a tour with working band Kodian Trio (with Colin Webster and Andrew Lisle) and with Yodok III (with Tomas Järmyr and Kristoffer Lo).
E&D: How was the experience of being an artist in residence for last year’s Roadburn Festival and what were the highlights?
Dirk: It was truly magical and definitely a personal highlight in my career. Not only was I super proud I got invited by Roadburn for a 4 day artist in residency. It truly felt like an honest appreciation for what I’ve done over the past 35 years for being that wilful, independent experimental artist. I don’t want to wine but I hardly experience this kind of appreciation and acknowledgement for what I’ve achieved musically over these 3 decades. Some artists with way less baggage and realisations do tend to get way more and easier exposure. So I’m extremely grateful to Roadburn that they do look at me as an artist with a unique voice who has something to say and the carte-blanche residency was just overwhelming. All 4 nights were amazing but I think the highlights were surely the Roadburn favourite Yodok III (the trio I’ve with the amazing drummer Tomas Järmyr – Zu, Motorpsycho, and the genius tuba player Kristoffer Lo) and on the last night Martina Verhoeven Quartet. A full-on free jazz quintet with, apart from myself, the amazing Colin Webster on sax, Gonçalo Almeida on double bass, Onn Goavert on drums and the overpowering Martina Verhoeven on the piano. It was a risk but the way how this quintet was embraced by an outrageously enthusiastic Roadburn audience was just overwhelming. Still get goosebumps thinking back.
E&D: You have played a the festival many times. What is it that makes Roadburn do special and what have some of the other high points from playing there?
Dirk: You see I firmly believe in the strength of networking and this is something I actually share with Walter of Roadburn. He equally appreciate how mutual support can produce unique experiences and this is the way how he build up his festival. Not only did he had the willpower to push the festival beyond one genre but also did he know that working together could create more opportunities, and this is where I also stepped in and helped out on numerous occasions. The beauty and sincerity of Walter is that he never forgets this and on top of that he always showed a huge respect for what I was doing so that I was able to play already 6 times before I was asked for the 4-day residency. What makes Roadburn stand out so much is also the audience it draws. An audience originated from what the festival initially was, a stoner rock festival, but became way more. A crowd eager to explore, discover and absorb new music and genre-bending styles. Exceptional.
E&D: What other music are you working on at the moment?
Dirk: I’m currently working on a few live mixes from recent free improvisation concerts while I have been upgrading my pedal boards and scoring a new ambient album which, I can proudly say, definitely push the sonic boundaries again.
E&D: You have just reissued the Dante Trilogy of Vidna Obmana albums, Tremor, Spore and Legacy. Can you tell us about bringing them back out and what the reception has been to them?
Dirk: First of all, I’m very grateful to Zoharum who has been reissuing the classic Vidba Obmana albums and making it such a beautiful series. Giving me the opportunity to go back and remaster all the old recordings with the knowledge and experience I’ve now. While initially we started out with some of the more straightforward ambient albums, I’m very happy Zoharum also wanted to include this Dante Trilogy. This 3cd set, finally uniting the 3 albums together, is just out so don’t know yet how the reissue will be received but I hope the response will be positive.
E&D: What are your main memories of making those three albums?
Dirk: I always have been aiming for progress and therefor constantly keen on experimenting with genres, finding musical bridges between styles and collaborating with kindred spirits in order to persue that perfect blend in music. I originally started out in 1984 with industrial music and my love for the genre never disappeared, even when I moved with Vidna Obmana through a phase of pure ambient music. Even back then I always tried to incorporate new elements in my music in order to push the musical boundaries for myself and to keep it fascinating, evolving and transforming. In the nineties when I slowly moved into different terrain with my music as Vidna Obmana, I could clearly see that the potential character of the genre started to be limiting and therefor restricting myself in expressing, experimenting and stretching the ambient genre. The genre was back then quite conservative so slowly but surely I started to move away from my alter-ego but when I got the unique opportunity to record a trilogy of albums for Relapse Records, I knew that this could be the momentum to grow beyond genres. The chance to be on a label like Relapse Records connected me with several key players in the (post)metal genres like Steven Wilson, Steve Von Till, Johannes Persson of Cult Of Luna and Justin Broadrick. Through some of them I realised my music was quite respected within the heavier genres and it opened up a lot of possibilities, hence some of them playing on these 3 albums. The Dante Trilogy has helped me to end Vidna Obmana in the best way possible, to conclude the story and to move on.
E&D: Is there a chance that there will be any more Vidna Obmana music in the future?
Dirk: Not at all, sorry. I really believe I said everything I could under this banner and of course I’ll continue to work on remasters and set out an expansive digital back catalogue with most of my archive recordings on Bandcamp. But a revival, no thanks.
E&D: What were the highlights of making music as Vidna Obmana?
Dirk: There are really many but I think I can really look back at a wonderful period in my life as being in the front, along with colleagues like Steve Roach, Alio Die, Robert Rich and others, of a genre which we all pushed beyond. Also the late eighties and early nineties was a period where the sky was the limit. Big promotional campaigns (especially in the States as I was linked to the Projekt label), being brought over to the States to do tours, one-off shows, etc. Everything was possible and the cd was a hot item. Creatively I was not only able to discover myself as a solo artists but the collaborations I was able to do with, for example, Steve Roach belong to the best experiences ever. Recording in his studio, being together in the moment against the surreal backdrop of the impressive Sonoran Desert in Arizona was just breathtaking, inspiring and uplifting, and I met there a friend for life.
E&D: What were some of your favourite memories from your time with Fear Falls Burning?
Dirk: Fear Falls Burning was a difficult ride. The closure of Vidna Obmana left me with a heavy burn-out, empty and powerless. I knew I had to steer away from the complexity of electronic instruments (the numerous synths, effects, ADATS, DAT and computers) and approach the creation of music as a fun one. Giving me the ability to enjoy playing music live again instead of being dominated by the technical side of the entire set-up on stage during Vidna Obmana period. In the last years of Vidna Obmana, I started to use the electric guitar more and more and this is what became my prime instrument when FFB started. Initially FFB was a straightforward, unedited, real-time culmination of sounds on the electric guitar through a vast collection of pedals but somehow thanks to my connections I made with the trilogy on Relapse Records, FFB became a ‘band’. I think I can honestly say that my personal highlights were the 3 major albums I made with Fear Falls Burning as a band and their related special concerts: French Of The Absolute, Disorder Of Roots and Function Disorder.
E&D: Will the band ever do anything again?
Dirk: I’m sure the band will erupt again one day… not sure in which constellation though.
E&D: What have been some of the most memorable moments in your vast musical career so far?
Dirk: I think that I was fortunate enough to pursue what I wanted to, fully independent from what is hype or hot at the time. It surely didn’t make my life as a musician easier as I never followed the easiest path as I constantly wanted to explore new things and cross over genres. But on the other hand quite happy that I was able to experience the transition from cassette production, to vinyl and cd, and back. I learned a lot and helped me to survive independently. I still run a label, still produce my own music, still set up independent concerts. It’s heavy, time-consuming, demanding but it still gives me the freedom of expression I do need in my life. Surely with ups and downs, with success and failure but one I never would swap.