Spread across four long tracks, the trio has an intentional sense of isolation injected within the sound. Recorded over a week in the basement of member Florian Kindlinger’s parents’ house, and then edited in a small hut in the Austrian mountains, there is a sense of being alone amidst the lush ambience. The opening "This Is Your 4AM Wake-Up Call" begins with slow ringing reverse textures, a low rhythmic pulse and an odd clicking sound finally appear. The track builds in complexity, adding subtle layers of sound that, on their own seem rather sparse, but taken together, along with guitar and fragments of voice, sound like a deconstructed take on shoegaze ambient, complex yet beautiful and inviting.
Heavily effected string and sparse ambient sounds introduce "Augarten," and a distant kickdrum acts like a heartbeat in the extremely intimate recording. Compared to the opener, the heavily tremolo’ed strings that stretch for infinity stay the primary focus, with only the occasionally plucked string, or the sound of movement picked up by an ambient microphone. Because of this extremely simple structure, it’s more like being in the room as the tracks were being laid down as opposed to a polished studio (or live) recording.
"Bantu" brings back more of the processing and effects, with the metallic pings and rattles and subtle guitar pushing it into improvisation-land, with field recordings and wind chimes fleshing out the sound. As the track closes, a lush organ and digital textures push the volume up to full on power ambience: heavy and room-filling, but never oppressive or harsh. The closing "A Rest in Tension" lives up to its name: it mirrors the textures of the opening track, but keeps the dense heaviness of "Bantu" on and on, even above recordings of conversations and long, drawn-out sounds before ending on a sparse note of a clicking metronome and distant bells.
As previously stated, there’s a constant sense of isolation and intimacy here: even though field recordings occasionally put the sound in a wider context, there is still the feeling of being in a room with these guys as its being recorded, in an entirely different world. The shoegaze and ambient elements pervade, but never feel like a crutch to be leaned on. Too often bands will simply pile on the effects to create a lush, heavy feeling, but here it feels truly warm, and truly different.


the silent ballet_nov09:

Given that the ambient scene is dominated by solo artists, Dirac is a rarity. An ambient collective, these three musicians hail from Vienna's experimental music circles. Their second and latest effort, Emphasis, is a four-track, forty-three minute album complete with ambient drones, tremolo guitars, minimalist piano, clanging cymbals, field recordings, and samples of everything from clocks to trumpets. Recorded in a family basement in Salzberg, edited in a hut in the Austrian mountains, and incorporating sounds from the makers' everyday experiences, this album is an intimate affair. They made use of an old clock in their editing hut, recorded ravens in their local park, played a trumpet to a frozen mountain lake, and used a photo of a nearby abandoned farm house as their album cover. While each of the four tracks has its strengths, two of them really stand out for their innovative sound blends and surprising tension. The tremolo guitar of “Augarten” and the reverberating trumpet of “Bantu” each bring a hush to the surrounding sounds that draw out the emotional charge of the album. Even those who find themselves bored or distracted when listening to ambient drones will sit up and take notice of the startlingly intimate clarity contained in these pieces. Intimacy is, in fact, the album's strength. While many ambient artists such as Tim Hecker seek to dazzle the listener by aurally representing the shimmering cosmos with rich distortions and long, wet delays, Dirac seek instead to push the listener inward, creating a soundscape suitable for deep introspection. If Hecker recreates the birth of our own sun in all its violent, ethereal glory, Dirac capture the mountain slope, silent and abandoned as the living take shelter from the impending snowstorm. Through sound, Dirac captures the silence of inner thoughts, at times discomforting and at times providing solace from the constant noise of modern life. Intimacy is perhaps also the album's weakness. Not everyone will permit a field recording of ravens to garner respect or intrigue. Drones and washed-out atonal trumpets can be difficult to sit through. Children playing in a field is something we've all heard before. But the musicians who made this music experienced these things firsthand, and to them these sounds have a great deal of meaning. Successfully conveying that meaning requires that the listener be in a willing and vulnerable state of mind. If the album fails to capture a particular listener's ears such that he's willing to follow it wherever it may take him, then the album fails. On the other hand, if the listener is willing to suspend his skepticism long enough to become enthralled, then the album succeeds completely. For music like this, it is engagement or nothing. Perhaps it is the abandoned farm house adorning the cover of the album that can serve as the cohering metaphor for Emphasis. At one point, a family built this house to shelter itself from the harsh Austrian winters. The surrounding land was cultivated for crops and livestock, and nightly the family members gathered around the dinner table to tell tales and share their meager fare. Breaking bread with one another to the light of oil lamps, spreading homemade butter from the milk of their own cows, they lived lives nearly incomprehensible to the modern city-dweller, and as a result their lives, hard as they were, are now romanticized by those of us who struggle to overcome the alienation that comes with living anonymously in a sea of other people. And now, that family is gone, the children leaving the farm for the cities, the elders long since buried in the earth. The land is overgrown, and the house lies silent and abandoned. Instead of its roof sheltering a family from the elements, a group of three experimental musicians snap a photo of it and use it as a cover to their album. But unlike the austerely beautiful birth of a star, the house was built with the hands of humans. They shaped the raw materials of the earth into shelter, and, years later, we stand and view the dilapidated product of their labor with something like awe. We recognize something vital, raw, and perhaps even primal in the ruins before us, and through this recognition we are stilled with respect for who they were and mourning for what's become of them, for what's become of us. How does this metaphor assist us in understanding the music? Dirac takes the listener on a trip inward, providing the necessary impetus to clear out those mental cobwebs, to bring into focus the uncertainties of one's own existence. Dirac's accomplishment in Emphasis will not be acknowledged by everyone, but for those who take the time to listen, they will be more than pleasantly surprised by a great album. They will be provided a place of respite in which to recover from the pressures of their daily lives, and perhaps to unravel those psychic knots that cause us so many problems. Take the time to engage this album. You won't be disappointed.
Stephan Sherman


Viennese trio Dirac are made up of Peter Kutin, Daniel Lercher and Florian Kindlinger, who are all active participants in Austria's more experimental musical circles, working in the fields of sound installation and live electronics. Emphasis falls into the latter category, and is a shining example of what can be achievedby electroacoustic free improvisation. The album opens in a slow and ambiguous fashion, taking on a minimal, soaring feel during 'This Is Your 4am Wake-Up Call', which ticks in an Oval-inspired, skipping-like fashion. It's a rather gentle exercise, but a cooly meditative introduction to the sort of sounds that'll be explored in greater depth during what's yet to come. 'Augarten' is a lowercase affair, creaking, crackling and occasionally emitting loose, disloated notes from guitar and piano. It's quiet and relies on your close attention, but its marriage of musicianly understatement and sheer otherness rewards your full engagement. Next, 'Bantu' offers a more confirmedly musical piece, glistening with processed tuned percussion and woozy, elongated tones that take on a curiously jazzy feel. The final entry, 'A Rest In Tension' is a more simplified composition, embracing the kind of organically derived drone sounds you'd hear on a Tape or Mountains record. Recommended.


I loved Dirac’s album on U-Cover so it’s jolly good to hear this new work for Spekk at last. ‘Emphasis’ comes as a 4-track album that’s absolutely brimming with luscious sounds. A sincere and heartwarming blend of guitars, gentle post-rock, field recordings and electronic elements it creates an absolutely fascinating journey for you to adventure through. You can hear references to jazz, electro acoustic work, drone and even the aforementioned post-rock, yet nothing ever dominates too strongly and the tracks are just as liable to subtly alter halfway through as they are to just bliss out for 10 minutes at a time. The underlying sense of aural experimentation is never far away but everything remains coherent and pretty much melody based throughout. ‘Augarten’, for example, moves between delicate piano chords and motifs that you could call jazz, before being joined by a shuffling drum beat and twanging guitars. But then, halfway through, everything gently ebbs away into some marvellous naturalistic sounds and recordings that left me reminded of something… I’m not sure what, but it was possibly a movie I think. Something swampy and very slightly sinister. The final track has a spiritual chord that gently rolls along in a distinctly church organ style and it provides a fitting end to yet another awesome album release from Spekk. Fans of Type are going to adore this as well as lovers of the Spekk releases as a whole. Marvellous.