Fennesz – ‘Black Sea’

January 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, January 4, 2009.


Black Sea

The work of Christian Fennesz is very much an amalgam; it is the sum of its apparently disparate parts. In a career spanning over 10 years, countless collaborations and four solo albums, the Austrian guitarist and laptop artist has melded affronting static with gentle melodics in the most unlikely, but somehow natural of ways. In the process, he has touched on everything from ambience to noise to classical to pop.

Fifth solo offering Black Sea – his first solo album-proper since 2004’s Venice – not only solidifies the Fennesz aesthetic, it journeys in some of the artist’s most developed, refined and downright affecting directions yet. Over eight extended tracks, Black Sea unwinds amid buzzing, tonal resonance, layers of electronic texture and clear, glinting guitar dynamics. It’s nothing short of beautiful.

Where it was easy to lose yourself in the more abstracted and noise-based tropes of Fennesz’s earlier material, this record tempers its power exploits with a spine of guiding guitar passages and clarity of vision. Even the most earth-shattering of noise assaults – such as on the title track opener – dissipate into gentle, spacious motifs and melodies. The bowing gestures of ‘Perfume for Winter’, glacial guitar melody of ‘Grey Scale’ and the hazed-shrouded ‘Glass Ceiling’ all make for fine moments.

But it’s perhaps the wondrous, droning texture-tone of ‘Glide’ – a collaboration with New Zealand sound artist Rosy Parlane – that proves the album’s centrepiece. All static, fuzz and digital grain, it gradually unfurls to reveal an entwinement of swooping strings guitars – dense and dynamic, authoritative and delicate, all at the same time.

Over its nine minutes, we are treated to all that is brilliant about Christian Fennesz. His musical language rejects the notion of electronic music as unnatural or synthetic. Rather, it uses electronics as a means to dig deeper into itself.

Black Sea’s sound world is one where all of music’s unnecessary embellishments have been discarded – the tweaks, the stylisations, the technicalities. A raw, evocative essence is all that remains.

Dan Rule



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