Saturday, April 18, 2009

ether09: fennesz

do you ever get the feeling that fennesz has been forever defined by Endless Summer? it seemed to be as close to a guitar pop record that experimental electronica could ever get — despite the thickly veiled, scrambled processing and song structures sliced up and diced out, its title, cover art, sun-kissed aura, and surprising dreaminess nodded to a tradition of amiable pop music that started with brian wilson and those original boys of summer. maybe though, it is just that some of us have inflated Endless Summer‘s popness, forming it into the record we wished it to be, instead of letting it exist as it was. the “best” records challenge us while satisfying our need for simplicity and order, in a way that feels balanced and unforced. between what fennesz gave us and what we wanted from him, we ended up with a pop album by meeting him halfway.

so it's no surprise that everything he's made after Endless Summer feels like it carries a slight air of diminishing returns, like coming off a high resonating with endless-ism. still, it would be a mistake to dismiss his latest, Black Sea. instead of a blizzard of pixilated electronic fuzz, there are stately and slowly- evolving melodies. the puffs of static, feedback swoops, and digitally distressed acoustic guitars are still there of course, but in a welcome inverse: spaciousness over density. the record’s best moment is 'glide', a live duet with new zealander rosy parlane. wrapping what seems like orchestral samples in barbed wreaths of guitar noise, they build to a crescendo that rolls over the listener like a sonic wave, then dissolves, but this time to near makes what's come before it on the record seem even more momentous.

maybe the idea is that Black Sea, unlike Endless Summer, calls for an external imagery, rather than evoking its own - unlike the heady rush of Endless Summer, the theme that runs through Black Sea is actually static. you could say that it's an Endless Summer for the winter; spend some time with it, and it delivers on the satisfaction of blossoming into something beautiful and three-dimensional, something that asks little, but hands out a lot.

if you're lucky enough to be in london, you get to experience it all in full colour as part of Ether 09 at southbank centre. the influential Touch Records presents fennesz showcasing Black Sea, along with rosy parlane, and swedish artist christian von hausswolff, whose new double album Perhaps I Arrive - Music for Ataturk Airport, Istanbul contains four tracks that were playing in the transit hall during the Istanbul Biennial in 1997.

tuesday, 21 april 2009
queen elizabeth hall

a day before, at 6.30pm on monday 20th April in the purcell room at the QEH, Touch's jon wozencroft and mike harding will also be hosting a q&a session with fennesz, rosy parlane and cm von hausswolff.

ether 09: fennesz

No comments: