Stratosphere With Dirk Serries: In A Place Of Mutual Understanding

Were a listener presented with In a Place of Mutual Understanding without being told the artist responsible for it, there's a strong chance said listener would identify it as a release by Dirk Serries, whether issued under his real name or an alias such as FearFallsBurning or Tonefloat: Ikon. In fact, the forty-three-minute release does involve Serries, though it's formally credited to Stratosphere with Dirk Serries. That the two share a special bond is borne out by the fact that Ronald Mariën (aka Stratosphere) is Serries' long-time sound technician, so it makes some kind of natural sense that the album, Mariën's follow-up to his 2012 Stratosphere album Dreamscape on Basses Frequences, sounds as it does and hews closely to the style associated with the Tonefloat imprint. Created using guitar, bass guitar, and pedal effects, Mariën's harmonious Stratosphere soundscapes are stylistically close in spirit to Serries' own.

Details of authorship aside, the album presents four settings, three in the seven-minute range and one almost twenty minutes in length. While the content as a whole is excellent, it's the longest one, “Dawn Will Reveal Itself,” a textbook example of guitar-generated soundsculpting, that's especially memorable. In this tour de force, Mariën and Serries slowly layer shimmering guitar- and bass-generated tones and washes until they become a towering yet peaceful and even uplifting choir. Elsewhere, “Distance” affectingly plumbs the depths of sadness, while “Confront the Reflection, Then Shatter the Mirror!” assumes an even stronger epic quality when Martina Verhoeven adds ethereal vocalizing to the droning stormcloud. Admittedly, it's not the first time we've heard such material, but In a Place of Mutual Understanding nevertheless presents exceptionally beautiful examples of sustained moodscaping.

November 2013