It was in 2004 that Via Obscura (www.viaobscura.de) started off as a side project of the progressive-metal band Aavas. Using the rehearsal time whenever Aavas failed to meet for whatever reason, singer and pianist "Anne S." Obscura (Stefanie Anne Manke) with her brother Alexander T. – changing from guitars to drums for these sessions – and bassist Andre Manke investigated relaxation and slow-grooving music in improvisation. This, however, ended up very soon in an expression of what they missed in Aavas' sound: focus on simple and beautiful melodies, song serving play, slow tempo grooves advancing in epical and heavy rock passages, with metaphoric lyrics.
Via Obscura's sound builds up on simple songs with basic grooves in a slow tempo – and in the beginning only with piano instead of guitars. Maybe you hear a bit of classic gothic rock spirit as in Tiamat, Therion etc., or doom elements as in Shape of Despair, Bohren & der Club of Gore, the Lost Highway soundtrack, indie spirit as in Dead Can Dance and later sometimes influences of Pink Floyd. There are probably other very important influences. Via Obscura, however, has never been afraid of exploring sheer beauty in music and thinking about just supplying what a particular song needs. However, also an ingredient of the Via Obscura sound-cocktail is its work with dissonances that counterpart the more easy-to-grab elements of the beautiful songs.
For quite a while Via Obscura enjoyed making music in this trio constellation just for fun and for themselves, just like their laboratory-project Die Werse A few gigs for selected audience were played occasionally – think of the atmosphere of a gig at home instead of a Halloween party, or of a gig at a small pub.
However, in 2006 the desire for some guitars started to make its way into Via Obscura and became effective on the EP “Klagelied”, featuring four tracks. Working further in this direction, and with Alex improving in the field of orchestration the first album “Traum” in 2008 features guitars and string arrangements, in addition to the good old trio of voice/piano, bass, drums. For this record Via Obscura got producer Siggi Bemm on their side, who was fascinated by this sound that had somehow a touch of old fashioned-ness without being anachronistic, dogmatically old-school-traditional-gothic-rock-like. It was one of those remarkable incidents, when Andre picked out one of Anne's CDs (I guess it was Tiamat's “Skeleton Skeletron”), turned it around to read who produced it and just send a naïve mail to the Woodhouse Studios (www.woodhouse.de) asking whether Siggi would still be interested in gothic-rock,. Recording this album – one year after Aavas released its final record – turned out a lot of fun working two weeks on the songs in a relaxed atmosphere.
Though music industry was at crisis Via Obscura finally found a distributor for the record and organised on their own some reviews by some serious scene magazines like “Gothic”, “Sonic Seducer”, “Orkus” ("a soulful young band, ... ambitious dark music between gothic, rock, neoclassic and a dash of metal without dropping back in popular schemata", Orkus). Though it took an initial period in the beginning, we've seen many extremely pleasing reviews from the dark-scene-bloggosphere, and wonderful feedback from all six populated continents.
After releasing “Traum” Via Obscura got a friend as a live guitarist for a short period of time and played more concerts. For the songwriting and the next recording sessions, however, the trio setting appeared to be more suited still, since the songwriting has always stayed in the hands of the trio. Opening the field to a post-rock side of the guitar – which makes the sound-design somewhat more crispy – while maintaining the general direction of basic song structures you could grasp easily on the other hand, two years later, in end of 2010 the follower “Gedanken” was recorded. Again, Siggi Bemm was delighted to work with the band in his new studio on recording this – and delighted we were to work with him, giving “Gedanken” the right equilibrium between opulence and space on the one, and clarity on the other hand. Another two years the trio needed to get the artwork done and the conditions of publication right, releasing “Gedanken” in 2012 on their own net-label. For the artwork of “Gedanken” the band worked again with Frank Gusche, who had designed the artwork for the debut and who adds to the work, again and as always, with clarity and structure in his graphics. Furthermore the band was lucky enough to have the possibility to work with Inga Lankenau on various occasions. Inga Lankenau was at that time interested in live illustrations at gigs – Via Obscura playing their program and Inga drawing what came to her mind on a tablet which was projected behind the band. These very rare but great collaboration found its permanence in a music video and in the lovely drawings you find in the artwork of “Gedanken”.
In the meantime, "Anne S." Manke and Andre Manke started a further duo project to make some additional beautiful acoustic songs without the improvising rock influence that inspires Via Obscura sound; Alex in turn got more and more interested in improvisation in music, studying Jazzrelated music at Arnhem conservatory and playing world music in the trio Alerusjon, now Aleion. So by the end of 2015 we can just say: Most probably there will come a third album of the three in the future. We never stop making music together. We have already got new songs and we play our songs in acoustic and band versions. But as Via Obscura's motto goes, haste makes waste. So you never know when that will be ready for release. At the moment Via Obscura is having a longer break because of meeting difficulties (time and location).
"Anne S." Manke is working as a freelancing singer now, also teaching music (vocals, violin, keys) founder, producer and manager of several projects (www.stefaniemanke.de).
It was in 2004 that Via Obscura (www.viaobscura.de) started off as a side project of the progressive-metal band Aavas. Using the rehearsal time whenever Aavas failed to meet for whatever reason, singer and pianist "Anne S." Obscura (Stefanie Anne Manke) with her brother Alexander T. – changing from guitars to drums for these sessions – and bassist Andre Manke investigated relaxation and slow-grooving music in improvisation. This, however, ended up very soon in an expression of what they missed in Aavas' sound: focus on simple and beautiful melodies, song serving play, slow tempo grooves advancing in epical and heavy rock passages, with met...