Circles & Artifacts is a collaboration between photographer Martina Verhoeven, poet Linda Kohanov and electronic musicians Steve Roach and Vidna Obmana. The hours worth of music on this CD-ROM can be spun on a regular CD player, but to get the full auditory and visual experience one must utilize a personal computer. It is in this environment that the vision of the authors becomes apparent.
As the music is ethereal and amorphous, it is Verhoeven's fantastic photography that is the focus of the disc. Images slowly wash from one fascinating still to the next. The intricate content of each page is compelling. No doubt, countless hours will be spent in an attempt to make some earthbound reference to the images, or, for viewers with a different orientation, merely enjoying the emotions evoked with each successive wash.
The music realized for the disc is continuous and slowly evolves through three vague areas. Listening without the stunning visuals, one can easily become lost in the atomsphere. The music does indeed stand on its own, but the listener will not; as the dark timbres and subtle dynamics of the piece are capable of disarming even the most determined insomniac.
Together, the music and visuals augment one another perfectly. The music fills the listening environment and adds even more mystery to the creative visuals with the photography bringing context and a sense of place, however imaginary, to the music. Circles & Artifacts is the first of its kind, a new medium and contains an intelligent message and a serious experience.
This limited edition CD can be played on a normal CD player but if you have access to a PC you can also watch the full multi media presentation. As far as traditional ambient music goes this is simple stunning and is my favourite Roach & Vidna Obmana collaboration so far. It is also probably the darkest.
Though it is composed to go with the visuals it works well enough on its own. It has no form or structure that I can make out but the sound is very dense and constantly shifting as if you are looking at vast cloud banks building for a storm, the look of the sky changing from minute to minute Fascinating, brooding and very powerful. It sounds a bit like a cross between Roach's 'Atmospheric Conditions' and Robert Rich's 'Inner Landscapes'.
The music works even better however if listened to at the same time as watching the computer screen, particularly when accompanying the photography of Martina Verhoeven. The photographs are all black and white and rather abstract. Examples of her work can be found on the Vidna Obmana albums (some of them being collaborations) Crossing the Trail, The Surreal Sanctuary, Cavern of Sirens, Motives for Recycling and Spirits. The photos are split into ten galleries each starting with some poetic text written by Linda Kohanov. We then get a series of photos each loosely following some sort of theme or pattern. The photos transfer from one to the other by going through a series of effects. It really doesn't matter which section of the CD you are listening to whilst looking at the photos it all sort of fits somehow.
In addition to this you have short biographies with photos of all the contributors to the project including Steve Roach and Vidna Obmana. It all goes together to make a very nice project. Those that have a PC will get good value for money but if you only have a CD player, even though this is some of the finest ambient music you could want to listen to it does work out rather expensive. (DL)