Gathering 14 Graphic

Vidna Obmana


Spectral Voices

Live at

The Gatherings Concert Series

7 November 1998

St. Mary's Hamilton Village
3916 Locust Walk in Philadelphia, PA

Review: Vidna Obmana and Spectral Voices at The Gatherings in Philadelphia

For those of you not familiar with Spectral Voices, they are a group of singers who practice harmonic singing. They are trained to produce more than one note at the same time. They opened the evening with several pieces of harmonic singing. At times they were meditative and later added some percussion from frame drums. The music has obvious similarities to what David Hykes and Yoshi Wada have been doing, but by having six vocalists singing at the same time, they added a whole new dimension. The style of drumming reminded me at times of early Popol Vuh.

Since St. Mary's is not as resonant as the halls and tunnels they are used to performing in, some digital reverb was added to the PA. Being an inveterate sound guy, I noticed, but I doubt that many others did and I felt it was well balanced.

All through their performance, the only light provided was candles in two large stands and in a circle around the performers, very appropriate.

Then Vidna Obmana took the stage. He started by approaching the audience with some sort of hand made wooden flute and playing long notes into a deep reverb. Soon he cranked up a tribal drum beat which at times you could feel as well as hear.

As the rhythm and sustained notes from the keyboards continued, he added layers of reverberated sound from the flute and what appeared to be piccolos, rain sticks and a penny whistle. He even added in his own voice in drones, whispers and deep breaths.

He faded the percussion out and continued to pipe instruments through the reverb. It was a well tuned reverb lacking in any harsh or metallic sound. When the tribal drums began again, I had a playa flashback. I was standing in front of the Man looking towards the Bleu Light District, the large blue "W" and the Arena Ballroom. I could imagine dozens of naked fire dancers twirling to Obmana's beats.

The light show featured scanners with multiple patterns, colored floods and several rainbow projectors. The rays playing amongst the incense smoke added to the overall sonic atmosphere.

I was lucky to have caught this show as I hear that Vidna Obmana won't be playing live for a while, instead concentrating on his studio work.

Overall it was a very rewarding experience. If only we could have more music like this at Burning Man. It would fit in perfectly! A stark contrast to the pounding techno that pervaded the raves this year.

by Andrew Wing - As Posted to the Space List 8 November 1998

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The Gatherings Concert Photos by Bill Forcier