steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion


"Emphasis" CD


Genre: ambient, drone, experimental

Vienna, Austria

December 2009

After a limited CDR on U-Cover in 2007, Emphasis marks the second full-length effort from Viennese trio Dirac. The band specializes in what they've dubbed "21st century chamber music," a sleek euphemism for peaceful, ambient soundscapery. A look at the band's autobiography reveals the sheer mass of tools they implement in their sound -- effectively a laundry list of instruments enumerating everything from a Maultrommel to an Ebow.

Yet the compositions themselves are fairly minimalistic -- rarely dense and always slow-moving. A confirmed highlight is the twelve minute opener, "This is Your 4 A.M. Wake-up Call," which places the wistful, droning tones of singing bowls above a bed of slow-shifting bass and back-masked sound. The overall effect is distinctly cinematic -- it could be the score to a film in which latent secrets lurking beneath ordinary life are slowly revealed. Meanwhile, "Bantu" covers similar pensive ground, this time in a more fragmented manner; the track is a melancholy stretch of sad horns, jangling guitar, and distant bells, organized in a blissfully musical manner. Its breathtaking crescendo is a delicious purge near track's end.

Ultimately, Emphasis is quiet music, which isn't to say it's destined for the background. A stunning meditation on the city at night, perhaps -- or accompaniment to a dusty country road -- Dirac's album appeals to that mental state of dreamy contemplation that characterizes all of us from time to time. Though it will likely be the droneheads and ambient fanatics who will most bond with these four compositions, I feel as if Emphasis's potently evocative nature will endear it to anyone with a fondness for sound.

dirac's myspace

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 4 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2009]