CD – 49:13
“Venice” was recorded on location in the summer of 2003 and subsequently assembled and mixed at Amann Studios, Vienna in January/February 2004.
“Venice”, the fourth studio album by Christain Fennesz, finds electronic music at a crossroads between its early status as digital subculture, and the feeling that there has to be something more, an emotional quality that rises above noise and moves towards melody and rapture.
1. rivers of sand
2. château rouge
3. city of light
7. the other face
9. the point of it all
12. the stone of impermanence
Voted No. 3 in The Top 50, The Wire, December 2004
Although Fennesz’s breakout record Endless Summer was followed by a live release and a collaboration with Jim O’Rourke and Peter Rehberg as Fenn O’Berg, Venice is the true heir to that album’s ascendant pop. Venice is not as unabashedly poppy as its predecessor (the lack of Beach Boys references can attest to that), but still mines much the same vein. It was marked by critics at the time as a move away from the relatively robotic music spawned by the IDM craze of the late nineties. Instead, its melodic, emotive tracks foresaw an electronic music that could be purely human.
Fennesz is an artist eternally doomed to be underappreciated; the difficulty of a first approach to his works is potentially exhausting, and likely off-putting. Few listeners are willing to stand subtly intertwined lines of crackling feedback, woven into songs. Like so many brilliant lap-toppers, Fennesz’s sounds are carefully chosen and unfamiliar in their composition – despite the fact that their slowly revealed internal structures are those of a kind of surreal pop. It seems that the under-appreciation of Fennesz is a classic example (and not the only one) of the artist that so many pop fans clamor for, but then ignore. You want something new? Someone who hasn’t ripped off Brian Wilson or ’80s pop/mod/chic or ’70s glam or ’60s drugs? Then summon some patience, and listen – carefully – to Fennesz. When “Circassian” crushes your heart with its feedback-muscled arms of melody and sonic power, you’ll realize that all the “new” you ever needed is in one man: Christian Fennesz. Outlasting so many contemporaries who didn’t make it past the 2000-2001 IDM craze, Fennesz continues to change his compositional style, while keeping it handily in the realm of the unique. And as Venice attests, he can’t stop making masterpieces. [Amir Karim Nezar]
Album of the week 19.04.04
Christian Fennesz is probably best known for 2001’s Endless Summer, an album of processed reflections on the Beach Boys. This external focus, together with the deployment of guitar as primary instrumentation and the melodic undertow of the compositions, was perceived to set him apart from legions of glitch musicians working to a minimal, computer-based aesthetic. Such a view may be something of an exaggeration given that glitch, like breakbeat before it, is a viral entity which has already infected a wide range of musics. Whatever, there have been a number of Fennesz releases in the intervening years, but Venice will inevitably be viewed as the heir to Endless Summer. Both releases certainly share a sense of sunny warmth perhaps less familiar to their north European siblings.
Melody, depth and transparency are themes to be teased out, unwrapped or briefly spied here. Fennesz appears to be gradually approaching an essentialism which, although made up of a relatively limited number of parts, actively refuses reductivism.
The experience of listening to most of these twelve pieces might be compared to the act of viewing from a distance a series of Monet’s weather and light studies (the Haystacks, the Poplars or Rouen Cathedral). The longer the gaze is maintained, the more the colours vibrate and the forms shimmer between abstraction and figuration. The lack of any form of overt rhythmic instrumentation further underlines this impression, causing the music to float like a mirage or apparition.
David Sylvian makes a sudden, declarative appearance on eighth track “Transit”, his voice rich and high in the mix. Fennesz’s approach appears to be that of a jewel-setter and it’s undeniably a beautiful piece of work to behold, whether or not you¹re a fan of Sylvian’s lyrics and delivery. It might however have become something else, had there been a little less reverence and a little more of the emphatic manipulation and shredding which Fennesz applies to his own guitar.
Even so, it’s certainly a courageous decision to host a single vocal track within an otherwise instrumental album – encountering that signature voice immediately redefines the memory and experience of the tracks which precede it and thus the whole album. It’s a compliment to the power of Fennesz’s music that the more the album is heard, the more “Transit” settles in alongside its instrumental peers and Venice recovers its equilibrium like a boat initially in danger of capsizing.
The cover bears five photographs by Jon Wozencroft, each of which deals with water, surfaces and light. The images are reminiscent of cropped postcards, their colours rich but their arrangement lacking a defining subject to draw the eye and resolve the composition.
A similar interpretation may be applied to Fennesz’s music, where shimmering layers of noise either obscure the subject or accumulate to become the subject themselves. The reference to postcards also finds an analogue in the relative brevity of the majority of the pieces here: it’s as though they’re synopses posted from other places and states of being. [Colin Buttimer]
The Wire (UK):
For those squeamish about syringes, there’s a method of removing earwax which involves lying on one side and having a bamboo straw inserted in your ear, the end of which is lit, creating a vacuum which slowly sucks up the wax. As this leisurely and not unpleasant process unwinds, your eardum is gently assailed by a series of tiny but intimate bubbling, hisses and crackles. This reminds in many ways of the music of Christian Fennesz and there are those who regard his particular mode of guitar-based, glitch-baked ‘idylltronica’ as no more than a teasing and prickling of the senses, a music wholly lacking in ‘depth’ or implications. Although Fennesz does indeed operate at surface level, however, such a judgment is itself superficial.
The Austrian-born Fennesz’s reputation has grown substantially in recent years, assisted by the patronage of the likes of David Sylvian (who appears on this album) and the critical, even commercial response to 2001’s Endless Summer, with its warmly abstract take on The Beach Boys’ song from which the album took its name. He’s regarded by some as glitch’s It Boy, the most likely to succeed in achieving some sort of breakthrough. Certainly, there’s at once a sense that Venice is weightier and more purposeful than its predecessor. If Endless Summer inclined towards the bucolic, Venice is painted in darker, more pregnant hues, like clouds prematurely blackening the late afternoon skies. This is evident on the opening “Rivers Of Sand”, aptly self-descriptive of the more subtle, less liquid shifts of Fennesz’s sound. With its topography of scars and blemishes, it’s typical of his work, turning on the occasional CD–skipping effect, akin here to a sudden, sharp gust of breeze snapping at plastic awning. Such disruptions keep the listener slightly off-centre, don’t allow for reverie. Yet with its billowings, subsidences and Gothic recesses, it’s quite magisterial, distantly reminiscent of Vaughn Williams’s Fantasia On A Theme By Thomas Tallis, the sort of music that makes you want to rise to your feet. It’s a reminder that Fennesz is impelled by strong emotional undertow.
“Chateau Rouge” is initially a return to the pleasantries of Endless Summer, with its sparkling brooks of babbling electronica, before a tsunami of interference builds and eventually overwhelms the track. “City Of Light”, meanwhile, could be an extract of Gavin Bryars’s The Sinking Of The Titanic, with its slow, disquieting, listing motion. Here, it’s as if the ship has long been abandoned.
“Circassian” features the assistance of guitarist Burkhard Stangl. The effect is like a more subdued My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields & co perceived through thick, distorted glass. Stangl also appears on “Laguna” the least ‘treated’ track on the album, and significantly, the only track which doesn’t quite work. The very ‘essence’ of Fennesz is that he obscures the six-string origins of many of his sounds beyond recognition. Much more effective is “Transit”, featuring a vocal contribution from Sylvian, whose lyric, an elegiac rumination on the theme of Europe, is way, way more effective than his faintly embarrassing, upcoming collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto. As the lyric winds down to some sort of oblivion –”Lights are dimming/the lounge is dark the best cigarette is saved for last” – Fennesz weaves a spare soundtrack of radioactive toxins and malfunctioning striplights as if to suggest that the national grid is on the point of sputtering out altogether.
This, coupled with the mountainously beautiful “The Point Of It All”, is a reminder that there is a great deal more to Fennesz than so many yards of synthetic material. His musical language, though often suggestive of nature, is made up of wholly unnatural elements – distortions, errors, interference, jumps, disconnections, burnt out fuses, pops and pockmarks. Yet it is endlessly rekindling itself, refusing, finally, to die away all together. That’s the truth, the beauty, the humanity and the perturbability of it. Finally, the magnificently titled “The Stone Of Impermanence”, with its hailstorm of static and aerial criss-cross of frazzled vapour trails, is a reminder that, like Eno, Fennesz has a rare quality in an increasingly commonplace genre. It’s that of piercing exactness, of getting beyond the mere mechanics and loops of the electronic process. Venice is more than mere fiddling. It burns. [David Stubbs]
Guitarist and electronic musician Christian Fennesz returns with Venice, his first full length in three years. Tracks like “Rivers of Sand” and “City of Light” are lovely ambient music, lushly arranged with pads of sustained synth harmonies. Sprinkled around the edges are off-kilter sounds from the noise or percussion spectrum, which keeps the material from getting staid. Other cuts, like “The Stone of Impermanence,” feature more formally experimental and aggressive sounds in their arrangements.
Fennesz is joined by guitarist Burkhard Stangl on “Laguna” and “Circassian.” The former is one of the more conventional sounding pieces on the album, with honest-to-goodness guitar chords ringing out, while the latter is built from swirling sheets of sound. David Sylvian makes a guest vocal appearance on “Transit,” a first for Fennesz, as multi-tracked layers of his baritone are abetted by a canvass of buzzing guitars. Fennesz does an excellent job of balancing the IDM portions of his sound with more challenging layers of material, making music that is both individual in approach and eminently pleasing to hear. [Christian Carey]
Folk music for a generation reared on powerbooks, ‘Venice’ is Christian Fennesz’s 4th, and most spellbinding LP to date. Marrying those blurred lines of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins to frosty ebbs and flows, Fennesz is at once easy on the ears, but simultaneously reverberates with inner corruption. His is a hugely introspective haze of fuzz, drones and beats; drifting in its own inner-space, soundtracking the sun rising to its peak, or its later fall into slumber. Many others also do it finely, yet few thread guitars through cpu’s quite like Fennesz. Check those ambient rushes of ‘City Of Light’ or the spewed white-noise pop of ‘Chateau Rouge’, for his moments of beauty. Seek the Kevin Shields-esque mists of ‘Circassian’ or ‘The Stone Of Impermanence’, for Fennesz’s dalliances with darkness. Or be genuinely spooked by the rare vocal presence of David Sylvian, whose weird warble drops by for the haunting ‘Transit’. Fennesz here largely displays how eloquent the sound of the unspoken can be. ‘Venice’ is digital folk music, designed by the human heart, for the likes of you and me. [Ian Fletcher]
Venice is the fourth studio album in seven years by the Austrian laptop master Christian Fennesz, out on the amazing British label Touch. After his most recent release Live in Japan – considered by many to be the best recording of a live laptop performance – and his latest ground-breaking Endless Summer, Fennesz continues to push even further the boundaries of the digital instrument by incorporating smooth melodies and gentle textures. In this release – with Touch’s usual lovely front cover photography – made on location in the summer 2003, Fennesz’s guitar is constantly and intelligently present within his interrupted structures, making this album more accessible, yet without any lack of textural innovation. He even shows how easily he can blend vocals on the only sung track “Transit” with David Sylvian after Fennesz was a guest in the former Japan frontman’s latest enchanting album Blemish. This is the warmest approach Fennesz has expressed in his soundscape experiments by referring to them in the smoothest emotional manner. A record which is highly recommended to anyone interested in discovering his work as much as it is a must buy for those already in tune with his granular music.
Time Out (UK):
The fourth LP from digital adventurer (and occasional David Sylvian collaborator) Christian Fennesz should cement his reputation as one of today’s most rapturous laptop composers. ‘Venice’ is perhaps his warmest and most conventionally melodic work so far, setting gorgeous washes and softly bevelled slabs of processed guitar against glitchy pulses to sublimely emotional effect. Somehow expressing both the pain of the detached soul and the ecstacy of love, it should find a welcome home with fans of My Bloody Valentine, Bowie’s ‘Low’ and Sylvian (who guests on ‘Transit’). [Sharon O’Connell]
If 2001’s Endless Summer initiated a paradigm shift towards a more emotional strain of laptop electronica, then Venice represents a subtle advance upon it as opposed to an equivalent leap. Given the rapturous reception that greeted Endless Summer, it would be difficult to imagine the follow-up being its equal, but Venice is not only that but perhaps even better, although that’s less obvious given its more restrained style. Of course Fennesz smartly eased the mounting pressure by releasing Live in Japan and Field Recordings 1995-2002 in the interim yet Venice is the clear successor to Endless Summer. As before, so unique is his sound that the erstwhile critic struggles in vain for vocabulary rich enough to distill its essence into language. The music unfolds according to some internal, organic logic that’s ineffable yet seems natural, and there’s a mercurial and enigmatic quality to his style that renders it powerful. Fennesz manages the remarkable feat of channeling deep emotion into sound that’s uncompromisingly advanced and cerebral, with the result at times uncannily poignant. The magnificent opener ‘Rivers of Sand’ is a perfect case in point. With its shimmering streams and hazy smears, it’s a spectacular marriage of pure electronic textures and affecting melancholia. Fennesz here alchemizes icy shards of sound into sensual vistas.
Unlike Endless Summer, Venice adopts a more ambient style on many tracks. ‘Château Rouge’ is a becalmed oasis conjured by grinding waves of noise and flicker, while ‘The Other Face’ is a drone-like slab of swirling crackle inside of which slowly broils a mass of seething static. Even better is the majestic ‘Circassian’ whose sound suggests the processed sounds of a thousand humming monks filtered through gargantuan waves of steely abrasion. Guitar is less dominantly featured on Venice, ‘Laguna,’ a largely untreated episode of strums and picking, the sole exception. Perhaps inspired by his involvement in Touch’s Spire project, organ figures prominently on the phantom, spectral shimmer of ‘The Point of It All’ and ‘City of Light.’ The former’s ghostly themes are obscured by gently thrumming waves, whereas the latter’s shimmering clicks are heard through a Fenneszian blur. ‘The Stone of Impermanence,’ an anthemic, seething fireball of guitar distortion, ends Venice in grand fashion yet even when the sound is intensely raw, the mournful melancholy of the song’s melodies seeps through. The most obvious surprise is the addition of vocals, if only to one track. Fennesz appeared on David Sylvian’s 2003 Blemish and the one-time Japan frontman returns the favour on ‘Transit.’ His deep, sonorous voice seems jarring at first, perhaps because it seems initially overdramatic and cloying when it’s mixed so high. But soon the controlled majesty of the song takes root, and the beautiful conjunction of his multi-tracked singing and Fennesz’s magisterial support becomes clear. When Sylvian utters “Follow me / Won’t you follow me,” the melancholy lyric and mournful melody fuse into a siren call that’s irresistible. It’s a gloriously transcendent event on a recording that abounds with similarly magical moments. [Ron Schepper]
How endless exactly is Christian Fennesz’s summer? On Venice it is in its last stage; the days are hot and humid, but the leaves are already assuming a golden tinge. This is a music for an Italian palazzo or a shadowy church in September, a bottle of red wine in hand, and the far-off bustle of city life outside. There is a heaviness in the air that was absent on Endless summer… I wonder what Fennesz’s winter will sound like?
It is amazing how potent the name Fennesz has become in the complex and torn landscape that is the current electronica scene. A mere utterance of those two syllables is enough to explain the characteristics of the work of dozens of other artists: warm and rich, layered, gritty, glitchy, endlessly alluring soundscapes; the limitless potential of a guitar, as it seeps its way through the laptop filter or who knows what other kinds of sonic manipulation. This status is completely earned; albums such as Plus forty seven degrees 56’37” minus sixteen degrees 51’08” and the instant classic Endless summer (on Mego, which seems to be past perfect for Fennesz) are landmarks, milepoles, or would be if those terms hadn’t been used so ridiculously often as to render them meaningless.
It is very satisfying but hardly surprising that this new album, years in the making (at one point Fennesz lost nearly everything, and had to start over) and endlessly announced and postponed, does not suffer from the huge expectations that have grown and increased month by month. Endless summer was always going to be a towering presence, but Venice is strong and confident enough to reach for similar heights just like that. Thirty seconds into Rivers of sand I am smiling beatifically, immerged in the almost tactile warmth of the sound. A gondola and a garden and a bottle of Christ’s blood: wish we were there. Venice is unabashedly romantic, heavy with melancholy: a sweetly scorching ache.
David Sylvian repays the favour (a favour name A fire in the forest, on his brilliant Blemish album) with a well-judged vocal contribution on Transit, a lament for Europe. Burkhard Stangl (of Vienna improv ensemble Polwechsel; seek out the 2002 Polwechsel + Fennesz album Wrapped islands) contributes his guitar playing to Laguna and Circassian, to startling effect: the guitar’s return to its original, familiar form makes it sound positively reborn in a landscape strewn with the disintegration and detritus wrought by Fennesz. Gorgeous songs The point of it all and The stone of impermanence prolong the rapture to the very end of the disc. I have listened repeatedly. I have listened very well. Another instant classic, then. We open up another bottle. [David Bauwens]
The Onion AV Club (USA):
Christian Fennesz cast himself as a different sort of laptop artist with his first true breakout record, a brief single on which he whittled The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” and The Beach Boys’ “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” down to raspy flakes of sound. They were unrecognizable impressions from a scientific mind, but they were also unduly warm and musical, as guided by the natural world as a folkie picking riffs at sundown. Endless Summer, from 2001, followed in kind, charting a dense, mesmerizing patch where the quirks of musicians and technicians intersect. That hallmark album was rough and scratchy, but its abstraction lapped itself in a race toward process-intensive beauty that was hard to boil down to its computer roots.
The new Venice follows similar cues to more immersive ends. Recorded on location in Italy, the album stamps 12 sonic postcards from a city awash in romance and ruin. “Rivers Of Sand” starts off with a gorgeous ambient swath, its slow-flowing melody layered with rough textures that rub rather than rip. Fennesz follows precursors from the whole of ambient electronic music, but his dense and weightless structures owe as much to the cascading builds of shoegazer rock bands like My Bloody Valentine. His tracks play as rootless compositions, but they unfold like songs, wavering around riffs and impressions that tease and tug through the end. In “Circassian,” churning guitar chords enter as a glut of noise before separating, like a frantic splash expanding into lazy waves. The water motif fits all of Fennesz’s supersaturated moods, but his ostensible travelogue pays as much mind to the oil slicks that grease Venice’s grand canals.
An atypical stretch of vocals, sung by David Sylvian and placed inordinately high in the mix, breaks the album’s spell in “Transit.” But Venice resumes its sculptured shapelessness in no time, cementing Fennesz’s role as a master of ambient computer music that brings the outside in. [Andy Battaglia]
Pitchfork Media (USA):
In an interview with The Wire last year, Kid606 let slip that, like many electronic producers in his sphere, he could create an album in one night. He asserts that the software has gotten so good that making tracks is just that easy: Talent is kinda nice – and probably adds something to the equation – but it’s not really required. There’s no question that the perceptible dip in interest in experimental electronic music in recent years has something to do with the fact that there are so many labels, artists, and, above all, records that don’t sound different enough from one another to warrant special attention.
But then there’s Christian Fennesz. When it comes to recording under his own name, Fennesz works slowly: Venice is only his fourth full-length studio album in seven years, and his first since 2001’s groundbreaking Endless Summer, which altered the perception of experimental electronic music with pop leanings. Fennesz has remained busy by remixing, collaborating, touring (both on his own and with FennO’Berg), and re-releasing his back catalog, but – considering Kid606’s admission – three years is a long time between albums for an artist such as Fennesz.
With every album, Fennesz’s music has become prettier and more accessible yet still retains his distinctive style – and Venice is no exception. That’s fortunate for the uninitiated because as Fennesz’s reputation has grown, each new offering has served as the perfect introduction to his work. “Rivers of Sand” opens Venice with deep bass pedals working against pinched swoons of feedback. It’s completely electronic, but this piece would also sound fantastic in an arrangement for strings. “Château Rouge” is in the vein of the bent instrumental pop of Endless Summer, with what sounds like an organ melody (simple, just a few notes) beset by synth gurgles and pinstripe bands of white noise. Its “middle-eight” is vertical howls of machine noise, but its purpose is the same as the bridge of any pop song – to offer a variation on the themes presented earlier. “The Other Face” also feels as if Fennesz were taking some of the ideas from Endless Summer and pushing them in a different direction, here adding ethereal vocal samples to the buzzing mix.
The short track “Onsra” serves as an intro to Venice’s centerpiece, “Circassian”, which was written and performed with fellow avant guitarist Burkhard Stangl (who has previously worked with Fennesz as a member of Polwechsel). When people talk about Fennesz’s Kevin Shields fixation they’re thinking of tracks like this. “Circassian” drowns in loud, slightly out-of-tune power chords, each of which leads a long and happy life after the initial strum. The string reverberations multiply and mutate endlessly, making it possible to imagine cathedrals, a jet airplane passing through billowy clouds at 500mph, or the volatile racket of a tropical storm. Markus Schmickler gave it a shot, but no one does neo-shoegaze laprock as well as Fennesz.
On Venice, Fennesz also continues to dabble with pop. Last year, he collaborated with David Sylvian on the former Japan singer’s Blemish, and that partnership continues here with “Transit”. When a record contains only a single vocal track, the tendency is to place too much focus on it. That anomalous track always seems destined to summarize or “explain” the record somehow, yet the particular concerns voiced by Sylvian on “Transit” don’t blend easily with its abstract aesthetic joys. Still, as a song, it works well and would have made a nice non-album single. Fennesz has demonstrated a sympathetic yet adventurous ear when supporting vocalists. On “Transit”, a low organ sound anchors the tune but all sorts of strange explosions do the real work, simultaneously marking the changes and shifts in the song and reinforcing its structure. Fennesz flirts with a different kind of conventionality with “Laguna”, a guitar duet with Stangl with a serious Morricone vibe.
Venice’s quality extends beyond its sound. Touch proprietor Jon Wozencroft– through his breathtaking design and photography – continues to fight the good fight against records-as-pure-data by making the CD a value-added prospect. More importantly, the music is of a high standard. One thing that is made clear by Venice is that Fennesz is a composer who spends as much or more time crafting melodies and chords as he does searching for the perfect texture. He works regularly with improvisers, but his records under him own name could not be more orderly, with discrete sections carefully structured to maximize their emotional impact. (The symphonic nature of last year’s Live in Japan is strongly present here.) Thanks in part to that emotional heft, I have a feeling that long after many of the experimental electronic records from the past ten years disappear, we’ll continue to reach for the works of Fennesz. [Mark Richardson]
The Declaration Online (Web):
Two blue empty row boats left listless on rippling water. Red orange green riverbed foliage reflected in the water’s gauzy oil slick surface. An airport enveloped in dull gray stratus and snow. Upon seeing the photography and packaging accompanying Christian Fennesz’s latest recording, Venice, it is clear that the record label Touch remains intent on not simply putting out records but creating audiovisual imprints dedicated to inextricably tying sound and vision.
Over the past twenty-two years Touch’s founder, Jon Wozencroft, has covered each record release with a stunning array of visual imagery – photographs, video stills of natural scenes – that leads the listener into a deeper immersion in the music. Tension exists at the heart of Touch’s aesthetic, something often lacking on other distinctive and visually oriented labels such as ECM or, for that matter, the New Age-prone Windham Hill. Lush, sublime natural imagery often rubs against cold, artificially processed music or the reverse. This tension exists not only in the audio and visual components of Venice but it is also the hallmark of Fennesz’s music. Sharp and icy shards of digitally processed sounds clash with warm and beautiful melodies, each always vying for the upper hand. Contrast and tension, detachment and intimacy: they are what elevate Venice and the music of Christian Fennesz above a gluttonous experimental electronic genre. Venice begins by immediately coating digitally processed pops and purrs with wisps of melody that vanish and as quickly as they appear. Tracks such as “Rivers of Sand” and “Chateau Rouge” brim with these sounds and weave them through doleful melodic interludes that give the music its heart. Listening to this, I’m immediately reminded of an underappreciated album called Formed Verse the artist Neina released on the Mille Plateaux, which also effectively juxtaposed abstract sound with faint and mysterious melody. What sets Fennesz apart is an exquisite sense of proportion and his ability to emphasize the tension between the natural and artificial, between the warm and cold, consistently throughout his music.
Other tracks vere from this formula just a bit such as “Circassian,” which seems suggestive of the “neo-shoegaze” revival that has recently popped up for some reason. Undoubtedly, Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine loom heavily over the track’s blissed-out guitar sound though the lack of percussion reminds you that this is not rock music. On “The Stone of Impermanence”‘ repetitive and heavily distorted guitar chords sounds almost indistinguishable from what Flying Saucer Attack and Roy Montgomery were doing in the middle 1990s, or even the Jesus and Mary Chain before that time. But, again, it is Fennesz’s knack for adding the subtlety and nuance of his digitally processed sound to a seemingly straightforward pop formula here that keeps this from being anything “neo” or blatantly borrowed.
“The Point of It All,” perhaps the most affecting track on the record, contains a beautifully sweeping, almost symphonic sound. The melody and melancholia emitted from the music sounds strikingly similar to Hans Zimmer’s score for The Thin Red Line. Other tracks stand out for different reasons. “Transit” continues the record’s focus on clashing sound and melody but suddenly injects the vocals of David Sylvian, with whom Fennesz collaborated on a track for Sylvian’s 2003 solo album, Blemish. Sylvian concludes the track crooning the verse, “The lights are dimming, the lounge is dark, the best cigarette is saved for last / We drink alone.” Sylvian creates a fitting final image that encapsulates the isolation and contemplativeness evoked in Venice while at the same time returning the listener to the music’s visual component. [Scott Matthews]
“…Fennesz’s Venice is a record that obscures as much as it reveals like Turner’s watercolors of the sea, sky and stone of Venice: you take it all in because, ultimately, you can’t be sure where one part stops and another begins…”
Christian Fennesz works primarily with laptop and guitar and set a new standard for the combination of the two with 2001’s Endless Summer where he melded electronic detritus and noise to the open and organic sound of a guitar to build the first pop record for the binary world. Venice is his follow-up and finds him in a more introspective, somber mood, taking the shimmering guitar on a course through territory once ruled by Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine. Fennesz’s Venice is a record that obscures as much as it reveals like Turner’s watercolors of the sea, sky and stone of Venice: you take it all in because, ultimately, you can’t be sure where one part stops and another begins. “Rivers of Sand” is a wash of particles, thousands of tiny grains rushing together to create a river of static noise over a ghostly chorus and a lone guitar. Melodies are submerged beneath this wave of sand and Fennesz moves his hand across the wave, creating breaks in the stream for the melodies to bleed through. “Chateau Rouge” fuzzes guitar over a wellspring of artesian water, the bubbling fountain acting as the percussive element in the otherwise glistening ambience of the track.
“Laguna” is free of any distortion, a simple guitar duet between Fennesz and Burkhard Stangl as if the two were sitting on a balcony overlooking the canals, serenading the passing gondolas and the wheeling sea birds. There is a sense that time has sidestepped you in the streets of Venice, as if you left the modern world at the train station, and with this separation from modern time comes a sense of wistful melancholy and nostalgia. You can hear “Laguna” in the streets of Venice as you become lost in the Byzantine turns and double-backs which thread the city. “Laguna” follows you, echoing off the narrow walls and close rooftops; “Laguna” tugs at you from beneath the bridges and from the grates set low in the water. “Circassian,” on the other hand, is filled with noise — monolithic sheets of echo delay — as Fennesz and Stangl create waves and waves of sound. Reminiscent of Lovelieschrushing’s sonic whirlwind, “Circassian” is meant for the belly of old cathedrals where the endless sonic waves can fill the high space between the floor and the arched roof and rounded cupolas.
David Sylvian contributes the single voice on the record, his languid delivery sliding over a field of scattered noise and static — water droplets caught by tiny microphones and tweaked into distortion-laced bursts of sound. “Do you feel what I feel?” Sylvian inquires in “Transit,” his velvet voice weaving itself about your shoulders. The city can be quite empty at night, silent but for the distant brush of wood against stone and the rhythmic tap-tap of water. In these silences, you will find voices like Sylvian’s, spectral ghosts that whisper, “Follow me. Won’t you follow me?”
My objectivity goes out the window during “City of Light” as Fennesz welds together layers of fuzz and drones into a shimmering soundtrack, which mirrors the play of light against the moving waters of the Grand Canal at night. I visited the city of Venice once and fell in love with the crooked waterways and the old stones. I am in love all over again during “The Other Face” as Fennesz applies his digital layering to his guitar, to the wind which whispers down the stone alleys, to the rain which spatters off the shutters and railings of the hotel windows, to the sound of the water in the winding canals which track through the body of Venice. What Fennesz leaves in my head with his music is 16mm film versions of my memories, the frames stained at the edges and blurred by static and pops. The colors are still rich — still vibrant — but everything is softened and scarred by having been looped a few thousand times in my head. Still, like all your favorite things, you still keep replaying them even as time and entropy wear them away into nothingness. Ah, Venice. [Mark Teppo]
With Endless Summer Christian Fennesz amply demonstrated that the Beach Boys’ influence can be taken in directions radically different to the usual harmonic pilfering and put-on wide-eyed wonder that most followers of Brian Wilson seem to feel does justice to America’s finest and maddest pop artist. I never understood the fuss about Pet Sounds, but the way Fennesz dissolved its essence in layers of stereoscopic interference and interplanetary noise was more compelling than a dozen indie bands with big drums and weak singers.
After the relative success of Endless Summer, as much to do, perhaps, with its cover and presentation as its sonics, Fennesz retreated back to the world of field recordings and complete abstraction. Venice sees him wandering back towards the real world once again, but never too close. As ever, Fennesz makes music that sounds as if he’s dropped his laptop into the ocean and recorded the resultant sound of its electronic struggle against drowning, or as if he’s set fire to a piece of vinyl that was playing at the wrong speed anyway; it is noise, but it is beautiful noise. If Endless Summer’s lineage in the Beach Boys was a conceptual way in for listeners not used to his particular brand of Austrian experimentation, then those same listeners could be pulled in again by leaning towards the idea that Venice is a love song to Europe’s most romantic city, an abstract psalm where carefully placed noise can be as beautiful and poetic as carefully placed words.
The album is mostly constructed from unidentifiable electrical noise, but occasionally Fennesz leaves his guitar recognisable, such as on “Laguna” which is as if someone had dissolved “Runeii” from Laughing Stock in acid, while “City Of Light” is little more than the hum of static but it rises and drifts in such a manner that it gives swell to your heart, makes you hold the back of your neck and gaze out of your window. “The Stone Of Impermanence” begins with a violent thrash and then quietly dies over the course of the next five minutes, and “Circassian” is unassailable constructivism, rising and rising and rising, building towers atop mountains (fucking astonishing) using only sand and leaves and powdered, eroded cement dust, static vistas stricken by electrical storms far off, beautiful to look at, better to touch, but intangible. Love is not the fulfilment of yearning.
David Sylvian returns a favour on “Transit” after Fennesz guested on the stark Blemish, talking of saving cigarettes and leaving Europe, drinking alone and encouraging doomed romanticism amongst those who admire doomed romanticism, but his sonorous and languorous voice intrudes perhaps too far into the otherwise suspiciously beatific abstraction. A series of pulses like waves racing around a pier in a manner that resembles enormous, sodden angel’s wings buoy Sylvian’s precarious voice, impinging the instrumental (if one can summon these sounds from mere instruments) tenure and interrupting the otherwise understandable wordless flow.
Fennesz makes Boards Of Canada sound like Daft Punk and My Bloody Valentine sound like Oasis. He does with sound what Stan Brakhage did with film, altering its very fabric and texture, employing disorder and error as forms of communication and expression. He forces you to alter your understanding of the world around you by challenging you to see things differently, to learn a different method of perception and interpretation, to look beneath the chaos that seems to govern the movements of life and find the patterns beneath, to understand that every variable cannot be measured, every analogue cannot be known. Venice is a fine continuation of his peculiar and unique aesthetic. [Nick Southall]
Fennesz [ft. David Sylvian]: “Transit”
Fennesz plays John Franz to David Sylvian’s Scott Walker on this ultra-modern slice of electronic balladry from the Austrian’s forthcoming Venice album. The cold, brooding textures of static-drone and distant chordal accompaniment support Sylvian’s understated, dramatic paean to the “shared history of Europe.” The Walker comparison seems apt next to the reclusive legend’s similarly bleak (yet deeply emotional) statements on Tilt and the Pola X soundtrack. Fennesz accentuates the chorus with small explosions of old-school analog synth filtered through new-school calculated chaos, and Sylvian’s baritone harmonies capture perfectly the sophisticated, almost debonair melancholia one might expect of someone lamenting his fate in the Old World. Dignified and subtle. [Dominique Leone; March 19th, 2004]
A new Fennesz studio CD is always something to look out for, he belongs to the absolute top when it comes to laptop music. So far these studio releases are quite sparse, but it must be said that each is a step forward. ‘Venice’ is more than just a follow up to ‘Endless Summer’ – his previous studio release from 2001. In the first part of the CD, Fennesz uses the grainy, bit-rot sound that he is known in a more ambient context. Slow, peaceful tracks, which hoover a nice springtime warmth. Probably he uses guitar here (many keep forgetting that Fennesz is a guitarist), but the transformation of the guitar is beyond recognition. In ‘Circasian’ he adds fuzz to the guitar and shows a love for shoegazing music. With the piece ‘Transit’, things seem to change on the CD. That piece uses a rhythm and more surprisingely the vocals of David Sylvian. The pieces after that have a more clear guitar playing and here the processings are kept to a minimum. As a whole this is a very coherent CD, of which the influence of David Sylvian seems apparent: dreamy music, ambient yet poppy in approach. Much more subtle in approach than ‘Endless Summer’ and a step closer to popmusic. It wouldn’t be a too big surprise if the next one (2007 by my count) would seen a continuation of the final pieces of the CD and Fennesz scoring his first hit single. ‘Venice’ is the forecast of more beauty to come. (FdW)
The Milk Factory (UK):
There is something totally unique in the music of Fennesz that brings experimental and evocative so close together that the boundary is often blurred. If this has been true from his first records, his 2001 album Endless Summer, released on Austrian label Mego, totally redefined his sound in many ways, making it more appealing, warmer, and ultimately more accessible, while retaining the visionary landscapes of its predecessors. Three years on and Christian Fennesz continues to reshape, with Venice, his musical manifesto, bringing on board new elements to give his textures a more human aspect. Hailing from the Austrian capital, Vienna, Christian Fennesz first appeared as part of experimental rock ensemble Maische before he started releasing his solo material on Mego in 1995. His first four track EP, Instrument, showcased his heavily treated and layered guitar sounds combined with electronic textures and glitches, in just four tracks.
A year or so later, he offered a more extended and comprehensive version of his sonic vision on the Hotel Paral.lel album. Since, he has taken part in an impressive number of projects, collaborating with the likes of Jim O’Rourke, Peter Rehberg, Biosphere [no, he hasn’t – ed.] or Rosy Parlane on records, got involved with numerous art installations and worked on a couple of soundtracks. His 2001 album Endless Summer saw Fennesz applying a warmer, more melodic template to his sonic construction, gaining in the process new devoted followers. Following the Field Recordings 1995-2003 compilation released last year on Touch, Christian Fennesz is now unleashing the long awaited follow up to Endless Summer in the shape of Venice. Loosely arranged in four sections articulated around three short interludes, Onsra, Onsay and Asusu, this album continues to explore beautiful dense soundscapes. Once again, Fennesz’s treated guitars and electronics form the backbone of this album, with ephemeral melodies emerging from the fog only to be swallowed again. Meticulously layering his sounds into vast vaporous constructions, Fennesz arranges his textures to either clash against or morph into stunning beat-less backdrops, translating a wide range of emotions into his music. Bringing on board Austrian experimental guitarist Burkhard Stangl on the stunning and grandiose Circassian, one of the highlights of this record, and the effortless Laguna, and ex-Japan front man David Sylvian on Transit, a song at times reminiscent of This Mortal Coil, Fennesz engages in new challenges, confidently developing new scopes for his music. Slightly darker than its predecessor, Venice offers some superb dreamy moments (Rivers Of Sand, Circassian, The Other Face or the closing The Stone Of Impermanence), bringing to the surface the more granular side of Fennesz’s music to the surface. For this fifth original solo album, Fennesz appears to bring more than ever the density of his sonic experimentations and the lightness of his arrangements together. Totally at ease with his beautiful soundscapes, building up on his previous work yet effortlessly injecting fresh elements to allow his music to evolve almost by itself, Christian Fennesz creates with this album a faultless soundtrack that will have Kevin Shields die of jealousy.
Christian Fennesz’ 2001 album Endless Summer firmly established him as one of the electronic avant-garde’s greats with his delirious balance of hotwired digital glitches and a nostalgic revisitation of summery pop sensibilities. The assimilation of overloaded digital filtering technologies and guitar driven song fragments has continued to be Fennesz’ strongest asset through his celebrated arrangements for David Sylvian’s Blemish album, and has even earned him a curious forthcoming collaboration with Sparklehorse! Venice is his fourth studio album and clearly stands as his best work to date. According to Asphodel’s Naut Humon, Venice was almost a doomed project, as Fennesz’ hard drive crashed less than a month before he needed to deliver the record to Touch. With about a quarter of the album salvagable, he scrambled to reassemble the album from memory. While it’s hard to say if this time constraint benefitted or detracted from his process, the album itself is stunningly good. Just as Endless Summer channelled the acid fried spirit of Brian Wilson, Venice also finds itself an album with a muse: Kevin Shields. There have always been short-circuited elements of My Bloody Valentine shot from Fennesz’ tricked out guitar sound; but Venice pushes Fennesz affection for shoegazer’s buccolic atmospheres and sublime melodies to the forefront with marvelous results. Each song appears to be nerve-rattlingly familiar; yet just as Endless Summer invoked Brian Wilson without ever resorting to selfconscious quotation, each of his tracks glides along the same oceanic currents authored by Slowdive, AR Kane, Ride, Loveliescrushing, and The Cocteau Twins. Again, no direct references can be heard in Venice; rather Fennesz taps directly into the hopelessly romantic sentimentality of shoegazer music and replicates it perfectly behind a light dusting of digital pixels.
The one track which gives us pause on Venice is the single collaboration with David Sylvian. While this track on its own works as good if not better than anything on their aforementioned Blemish album, it sticks out like sore thumb against the sublimely textured ambience which dominates the remainer of the record. If every album only had one minor miscalculation, the world would be much better off; thus, we’re more than willing to look beyond this track and tell you that this will undoubtedly be the best electronic record of 2004 and one of the all around best records of the year!!
Manche Alben vollbringen das doch eher seltene Kunststück, den Hörer mit auf eine Reise zu nehmen. Alben, bei denen sich keine vordergründigen Geschichtenerzählungen aufdrängen, sondern alleine Stimmungen und Klangflächen dafür sorgen, dass man zutiefst bewegt wirst. „Venice“, das neue Album von Christian Fennesz, ist eines dieser seltenen Juwele, die eben das zustande bringen. Die zwölf Stücke von diesem Werk sind meilenweit von der seelenlosen Hintergrunduntermalung vieler Ambient-Platten entfernt. Die Klangmalereien von „Venice“ verstärken Stimmungen, Gefühle und Geschichten, die sich im Kopf abspielen. Fennesz lässt sich mit seinen Klangkompositionen und Texturen genügend Zeit und setzt nicht auf den schnellen und hektischen Augenblick. Seine Laptop-Musik gleitet gelassen dahin. Zudem beinhaltet sie stets etwas Traumhaftes und Dunkles, wobei auch immer wieder Licht durch diesen Soundteppich blickt. Somit erhalten die minimalen Oberflächen von Christian Fennesz eine angenehme Wärme. Dafür sorgen zudem die teilweise eingestreuten analog gefärbten Klänge und Gitarrenspuren. Bei Stücken wie beispielsweise ‚Circassian‘ tritt sogar eine ähnlich verdichtete Stimmung zutage, wie sie Kevin Shield mit seinen My Bloody Valentine herauf beschworen hat, und die sich so selten in Musikproduktionen wiederfindet. Wunderschön auch die leisen Knistergeräusche, die sich oftmals in den Soundtrack mischen und so ungemein sinnlich wirken. Gesang gibt es auf diesem Album nur einmal. David Sylvian verleiht dem Stück ‚Transit‘ seine Stimme und revanchiert sich damit für die Produzententätigkeit, die Fennesz dem letztjährigen Sylvian-Album zuteil werden ließ. “Venice” erscheint übrigens auf dem Londoner Touch-Label, welches vor mittlerweile über 20 Jahren von Jon Wozencroft und Mike Harding gegründet wurde. Das audiovisuell ausgelegte Label hat sich gerne den avantgardistischen Tönen verschrieben, um neue Hörerlebnisse und -wahrnehmungen vorzustellen. Für den kunstvollen Anstrich der Touch-Produkte sorgt seit jeher die sehr einheitliche und straighte Artwork-Gestaltung, mit kühl-melancholischen Fotografien von Labelgründer Jon Wozencroft himself. Auf Touch Records, welches Künstler wie Richard H. Kirk, The Hafler Trio und Biosphere vereint, hat Christian Fennesz nun also sein passendes musikalisches Zuhause gefunden. [Roland Adam]
Please allow me to disturb myself It has been some albums that fennesz started to prune the abyss between research and pop music without ever kneeling down to dancing beats. The Austrian artist started out as a garden architect and a guitar player (the project Maische), before developing both as a musician and as an artist (many are his sound installations leading to the latest Biennale of Venice). Without any Berlin as a holyland of glitch music interacting with his inspiration, he is meticulously active on the conceptual side of a research area that has jagged borders. He lives between the outskirts of Vienna and some holiday house near Venice the continuous sound transformation that he slowly publishes. His extraordinary skill of shaping the visionary course of his “soundtracks without movies” probably originates from a different approach compared with the multitude that works on the redemption of shred and stained sounds. Christian Fennesz puts his guitar under the glow of the powerbook apple light when working on chords and low frequencies. A similar marriage of reverberations was sublimated in the touching and dazzling 2001 “Endless summer”, and now becomes outlining “Venice”, yet another topic on that narrow line between dream and understanding. At the centre and on the borders at the same time, this town has kept its promise to give itself only to the bravest who are willing to walk far fro traditional paths. The chilly modulations warm themselves on the levers thanks most of all to the gaze of sonic disturbance, so becoming the heirs of the elegance and the bleakness of a town that disappears in the sunsets in Mestre, and then dies behind a humidity-eaten chimney far from the ideal of a clean synthetic sound. The porosity of the low frequencies fills itself with the samples unealthy water, while waiting for the guitar of Burkhard Stangl (formerly part of Polwechsel) and of Fennesz himself (Circassian, Laguna) to develop a song form, or waiting for the redundant voice of David Sylvian in the only sung track (Transit). The overwhelming of expanded textures (Rivers of sand), the precise and obstinate drip (Chateau rouge) and the metallic reverberations (The other face, The point of it all) are a surprise in a calle tread on a thousand times, in the magma of noise. In front of it all, there is the artwork of Jon Wozencroft, who takes part also in the live performances completing the trance effect with his visual. We were talking about Venice, without having ever seen the empty Arsenale, and the vast spaces in which a long time ago ships brought in waves. [Donatella Freasie]
Kinda Muzik (Netherlands):
Hoe ga je met de druk om als je een tijdje terug door de schrijvende pers eensgezind snoepje van de week bent verklaard? Want dat gebeurde er plotsklaps met de Oostenrijkse experimentele laptop-glitcher/gitarist Christian Fennesz, nadat hij stiekem wonderschone zomerse liedjes onder een dikke deken van witte ruis en onrustbarend stekelige clicks’n’cuts had gestopt op het fenomenale Endless Summer. Ongehoord veel positieve media-aandacht viel de goede man en zijn muziek ten deel, en dat terwijl hij geen enkele concessie richting groot publiek had gemaakt en gewoon stug was doorgegaan op de weg waar zijn voorgaande werkstukken hem naar toe hadden gebracht. Succes en integriteit gingen bij Fennesz wonderwel samen. Gevolg was wel dat er hele volksstammen een Pavlov-reactie lieten zien bij het alleen al horen of zien van een Fennesz-referentie, ook al tussendoor gevoed door grandioze oudedoosopnames (Field Recordings 1995-2002) of kleinschalige live-albums (Live in Japan). Het wachten op de echte, nieuwe Fennesz plaat bleef echter knagen en jeuken. Welk een druk moet er door de beste man zijn gevoeld? Hoe dan ook, mocht dat laatste al zo zijn, dan is er werkelijk helemaal niets van te merken op deze hagelnieuwe schijf. Sterker nog, Venice is nog meer dan Endless Summer en al zijn andere werken een toonbeeld van pure schoonheid en rauwe emotie. Geen eindeloze zomer dit keer, veeleer lijkt de zwaarmoedige pracht een herfstgevoel te willen overbrengen. Als geen ander lukt het Fennesz om abstracte electronica en minimale ambient te koppelen aan diepe gevoelens en menselijkheid. En dat niet alleen, hij zorgt ook nog eens voor een perfecte synthese tussen analoog en digitaal, mens en machine: hij laat zijn zacht galmende gitaarakkoorden (en ook die van gastmuzikant Burkhard Stangl) via zijn laptop uitwaaieren naar de verre zwarte gaten waar ook Kevin Shields en zijn My Bloody Valentine zo graag bivakkeerde, zonder dat hij een moment dichter bij afgekloven shoegaze komt. Ritme lijkt van geen belang, alles verdrinkt welwillend in een zee van sfeer en puur zijn: geen verleden, geen heden, geen toekomst. Muziek die een non-lineaire realiteit beschrijft? Alleen in de samenwerking met David Sylvian komt de muziek even aan onze hedendaagse oppervlakte. Sylvian, vorig jaar door Fennesz al in de watten gelegd op zijn superieure Blemish, betaalt hem met minstens gelijke munt terug in het intense ‘Transit’. Waar in eerste verwondering overheerst over de manier waarop Sylvians stem zo pontificaal bovenop de muziek is “gelegd”, lijkt er bij nadere beluistering steeds meer een ‘het heeft zo moeten zijn’-gevoel te gaan bestaan. De als altijd tegelijkertijd afstandelijke en gevoelige stem van Sylvian klinkt als een perfect natuurlijke aanvulling op de muziek. Sylvian lijkt dan ook bovenal een kindred spirit, iemand die net als Fennesz zoekt naar pure esthetiek door een minimalistische benadering. Wat dat betreft lijkt er een soort van ongrijpbare driehoek te zijn ontstaan in combinatie met Mark Hollis, ook al zo’n eenzaam genie die het moest hebben van emotioneel minimalisme. Voorbeeld: het intens melancholieke ‘The Point of It All’ laat hen drieën onbewust samenkomen in een aanhoudend bombardement van klaarblijkelijk recente verlieservaringen, en zorgt met een minimum aan middelen echt elke beluistering weer voor een nieuwe brok in mijn keel. Niet dat de vorm overeenkomt met de andere twee, maar inhoudelijk, gevoelsmatig en intellectueel lijkt Fennesz op exact dezelfde locatie te verkeren als Hollis en Sylvian. Op het eind van Venice laat hij ons nog even schrikken met een stuk harde gitaarnoise, maar ook die passage blijkt na nadere bestudering hoogst essentieel te zijn; immers, schoonheid is alleen maar te ontdekken wanneer het tegendeel ook gedefinieerd kan worden. Indrukwekkend blijft dan hoe hij vanuit de noise op compleet natuurlijke wijze langzaam overvloeit in alweer een warm bad van wonderschone glitchklanken, waarin nog steeds diezelfde noisegitaar ergens ver weg is verstopt. Venice is nog veel meer dan we ooit hebben durven dromen. [Bas Ickenroth]
Pop Matters (USA):
Click! Take a snapshot of early ’90s Vienna. In a rock club, there is a familiar sight to the natives in the know. On stage is a lean, guitar-wielding ectomorph, singing and craning over his instrument for blissful sparks of dissonance, even as the rest of his band wails along to the joyful noise. Back to the future, 2004: the digital music scene is in full stream. That same Austrian musician, Christian Fennesz, once attempted his first trials with electric guitar in Maische, a band quite fond of the ideal being used at the time of heavy effects and splintering the sounds of the guitar itself. He quickly became disillusioned with being in a rock band, and moved on to using his computer as scalpel; plucking bits of chords produced from his Fender, and expanding them into long form instrumentals of staggering depth. This became his first EP, appropriately titled Instrument. Fennesz formed a new template then, and many people have followed his directive since. Since so many have discovered the ease of becoming a self-proclaimed computer musician, as if getting the right software can allow one the same talents, his work stands out from many of his contemporaries. He has carefully chosen to restrain the frequency of records he releases, with three years between his newest, Venice, and his last proper full length, Endless Summer. Thankfully, it is well worth the wait. Venice touches on many of the areas often associated with computer-based composition. In various spots, one might find the soothing nature inherent in most ambient-styled music, the now-famous glitch sound of tweaked sound files and broken CDs, and the abstract nature of something disassembled, as if a base sound is being refracted into a thousand pieces of colorful tone. Where Fennesz rises above is in his use of melody and that absorbing warmth he applies to his pieces. He is part of a select few of the current digital dilettantes who successfully fix their crosshairs so intently on mood and emotion. The result is computer music not reserved to the cold harshness so often associated with it, but that breathes, ebbs, and flows. Fennesz has a well-documented fixation on one of his early heroes, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. [No he doesn’t – ed.] Some of the most engrossing work here plays like that band’s between-song moments. His use of digital signal processing (DSP) and synthesizer drones creates such density, such sheer tonal mass, on tracks like the shifting liquidity of “Rivers of Sand” and the absorbing “The Stone of Impermanence”, that they work both as minimal background music and deep listening headphone excursions. The digital beehive buzzing here isn’t abrasive as in some his earlier work, and doesn’t nod to another of his influences, noise artist Merzbow, but instead creates a fecund atmosphere for dream-state and entering inner space. Fennesz still loves the guitar, however. Two of the most moving pieces that really qualify as songs, “Laguna”, and “Circassian”, feature guest guitarist Burkhard Stangl. In “Laguna”, Stangl throws out some bluesy riffs that nod towards Loren Mazzacane Connors, while Fennesz hovers just below the surface with that sometimes-ominous hum heard in those American films from the ’50s when a flying saucer is nearly touching the Earth, but not quite. The monster track, “Circassian” (a Circassian is a Sunni Muslim of non-Arab descent), takes things to a whole new level, with a guitar thread that rips like a Eno-Fripp collaboration: part synthetic environment, part axe-wielding on a Hendrix-ian stature. On “Transit”, Fennesz invited friend David Sylvian, he of the art-rock band Japan, for a vocal contribution. The song is a dual work, with Sylvian’s voice interacting as another instrument would in an improvisation. “Transit” is foreboding, hinting at the end days, and coupled with Fennesz’s insertion of some minor digital explosions, it ultimately spells out a dark tale. While his roster of collaborators over the years reads like a laundry list of envelope-pushers in experimental and electronic circles, Fennesz is at his best when at the helm. Venice gives a peek at his enduring penchant for pop, shows him breaking out into other areas of digital territory, and allowing his listeners to see the guitar anew, with its most glimmering elements shining like sunlight through cracks in a wall, sharp as diamonds. [Chris Toenes]
Dans le monde cloisonné de l’electronica existe encore un autre monde, parallèle, celui du “laptop”, qui réunit des musiciens dont le seul outil de travail est l’ordinateur portable. Le Viennois Christian Fennesz y règne en maître. Depuis Endless summer, album sorti sur le révéré label autrichien Mego en 2002, Fennesz s’est en effet définitivement installé dans le fauteuil de leader charismatique de cette musique a priori anonyme et froide. Mais ce disque, construit en partie sur des “chutes sonores” de chansons des Beach Boys, a prouvé que l’on pouvait émouvoir et même bousculer les émotions d’un auditoire à l’aide d’un simple ordinateur portable. D’ailleurs, le dernier disque live du très prolifique Autrichien, Live in Japan, en est une autre preuve éclatante. Aujourd’hui, Fennesz revient sur le label anglais Touch, toujours à la pointe de l’avant-garde expérimentale et électronique. Venice reprend les mêmes éléments que Endless summer (mélopées abrasives, sons électroniques faits de chutes numériques recyclées et d’accidents sonores), mais va plus loin dans le dépouillement et les nuances. Inexplicablement, le disque scotche l’auditeur attentif, qui se retrouve projeté dans ce monde parallèle, sorte de Venise numérique, où un romantisme désuet côtoie des déferlantes futuristes. Parfois, une voix fend miraculeusment ce mur sonore (celle de David Sylvian, ex-Japan, en l’occurence) sur un Transit au titre évocateur ; parfois, une guitare résiste aux transformations de l’alchimiste, et apparaît presque nue et désemparée (Laguna). Avec Venice, Christian Fennesz continue de tisser une impressionnante toile au sein du monde de l’électronique, et se positionne en véritable référence incontournable pour qui aborde cette musique, à l’instar d’un Brian Eno dans les années 70. [Frankie Clanché]
Christian Fennesz is slowly but surely coming to the attention of the many people who enjoy the glitch/ambient side of electronic music. This is mainly thanks to his particularly well-received 2001 album ‘Endless Summer’, but also due to swathes of favourable press that point towards an already quite substantial back catalogue. ‘Venice’ sees Fennesz continue his experiments into sparse, abstract, rich, yet fairly minimalist, electronica. When I say minimalist, I mean that Fennesz does not clutter his music with percussion or over-elaborate programming, he instead delivers warm atmospheres and settings, layered in muddy blankets of noise that require the listener to concentrate and gaze at their filmlike projections. It’s more akin to art than music, of which the cover photography lays testament to five depictions of moments in time. Like all good ambient albums, when that certain melodic loop is thrown in to the equation it melts into the music and brings your emotions to the fore, and the opening track, ‘Rivers Of Sand’, does precisely that, a beautiful track. ‘Chateau Rouge’ is much the same, but the landscape is dirtier, the noise more fuzzed. Like treading through swampland, you get glued down and fascinated by the mysteriousness of your surroundings and just want to stop and observe it for a while. Fennesz is not interested in delivering soundscapes that make you feel phoney one-dimensional emotions; each track has a different feel, a different attitude, occasionally they leave you confounded. ‘Circassian’ has a cascading sense of ‘something’; its multi-layered guitar and synthesiser feedback and drones loop continuously, leaving you to unravel the picture and apply its raw emotion to yourself in whichever way you see fit. ‘Venice’ is frequently interrupted by short interludes, such as ‘Onsay’, which mixes calmness with an underlying tension remarkably. On ‘Transit’, Fennesz invites David Sylvian to contribute vocals, which gives the album a sudden, clear focus. To be honest, this could easily fit on to Sylvian’s own ‘Blemish’ album, where Fennesz contributed some keyboards. Sylvian carries the melody in his vocal and gives the track a particularly European feel. ‘The Point Of It All’ sees Fennesz give in to the melodic and emotive thrust that hides patiently underneath all of his arrangements, as the track builds into a warm and euphoric landscape that could well have a profound meaning on you at some point in your life. Fennesz varies the album further by including the shredded, guitar strum of ‘Laguna’, and much like the rest of album, it grows on you like creeping ivy. ‘Venice is another solid, consistent album from Fennesz that carries it’s own unique stamp of quality. If you enjoyed this review then you’ll enjoy the album.
The Observer (UK):
Ambient hasn’t had much of a profile since the early Nineties, when Aphex Twin was soldering together his homemade gear and making electronica without repetitive beats was a political act. Now we have ‘intelligent dance music’ (aka ‘glitch’ etc), an umbrella term for digital composition that shuns the straitjacket of song in favour of crackle and fizzes that, in the right hands, become emotive soundscapes. Few have abler hands than Christian Fennesz, whose latest album takes up where 2001’s Endless Summer left off. His warm drones, ebbing analogues and dysfunctional digitals recall the sublime bliss-outs of My Bloody Valentine as much as they suggest ghosts in the modern machine. It’s deeply lovely; and for variety, David Sylvian sings on one track, returning the production favour Fennesz did for him on his last record. [Kitty Empire]
– Austrian avant-guitarist and laptop avatar’s latest attempt to marry glitch and hook. David Sylvian guests – Vienna’s Christian Fennesz has been a name to drop in esoteric circles since the mid-90’s. Endless Summer – 2001’s nutty but hugely accessible Beach Boys homage – alerted the wider world to his dual facility for dissonant electronics and lovely, lilting refrains; indeed, Fennesz excels when he squeez
Fennesz “Venice” (continued)
World’s of Possibility (Blog):
After 2002’s Endless Summer Fennesz could have wandered further down the idyll-tronica pathway – bucolic pleasures, sparkly spangles of muted rapture, pop motifs floated in a street-side puddle of ambient nothingness. At a certain point that stuff all starts to sound like some Warp-ed vision of the ECM label, polite and restrained, surface-sheen lovely and a bit glossy: untroubled music. With Venice, Fennesz rediscovered the glorious mistiness and uncertain emotional tenor at the heart of his best work. Venice connects more to the wistfulness of “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder”, the exploded spaces and hanging sculptures of sound dotted throughout Live in Japan (a more successful exploration of Endless Summer’s ideas and motifs), at times it even looks back to the wildcard experimentation of plus forty seven degrees 56’37” minus sixteen degrees 51’08”. The album title is a pun on the artist’s name, I suppose, but it also allegorises the record’s precarious structures with the slowly disintegrating city: the great sense of loss that is at the heart of beauty. Venice is highly sensual, and once or twice, it threatens to cross over into the concupiscent; at its most intoxicating it is so overwhelming you positively lose yourself, erased at the point of la petit mort. Music of jouissance? Why not (there is, after all, a great melancholy at the heart of jouissance – the very knowledge that it is always fleeting) – we need more music that deprogrammes the dead-eyed ‘virility’ of what passes for ‘pop’ these days, replacing it with music that valorises the overwhelming giddiness of pop at its most voluptuous and romantic. Perhaps Fennesz isn’t writing the ‘pop songs’, but he’s supplying the fabric, the texture, the erotic drape over the physical presence of great pop music.
(Oh – Did anyone else notice how, on “Circassian”, Fennesz gets remarkably close to the spine-melting amour of early Seefeel?)
Desde la década pasada el nombre del austriaco Fennesz inspira respeto debido a la calidad de sus ejecuciones musicales, el último de los cuales lo ha realizado el 2004 y lleva por título Venice (lugar donde grabó el disco) el cual merece la mayor de las atenciones por los seres ávidos de un encuentro con música de calidad. Hablar de Christian Fennesz -hoy productor y guitarrista- es remontarnos a los ochentas cuando empezó a gustar de música electrónica en la vena de Japan, Talk Talk o Heaven 17, aunque lamentablemente en su Viena natal no existía gente interesada en los mismos, por lo que tuvo que tocar guitarra hasta la creación de la banda underground de rock experimental Meische del cual fue fundador, vocalista y guitarrista.
Ya desde los noventas empezó a experimentar con dicho instrumento logrando sonoridades extrañas basadas en mezclas procesadas a través de la tecnología, todos ellos para dos sellos emblemáticos: Mego (label austriaco creado el 1994) y Touch (Inglaterra) en el que está realizando sus últimas producciones como su predecesora joya llamada Fields Recordings. Venice lo inicia ‘Rivers Of Sand’ el cual nos hizo pensar que andaría por los mismos senderos de su anterior entrega, guitarras procesadas sobre capas sonoras paisajistas, lo cual no se reflejaría con el transcurso de los siguientes temas. Ya con ‘Château Rouge’ los sonidos se tornan más intimistas, en este nos hace alucinar un ambiente de gotas de cristales al que se une por momentos el sonido de una especie de maquina procesadora con el cual se juega durante el tema. Inmediatamente viene ‘City Of Light’, puros sonidos de atmósferas extraterrestres en el que pareciera que todo el track fuera hecho de una sola capa, pero una atenta escucha nos llevará hacia las superposiciones de las mismas. Luego de dichos seis minutos treinta le sigue otro track con la misma duración: ‘onsra’, suerte de retorsiones sonoras que van pululando a lo largo del mismo en los que podemos apreciar ciertos guiños de sonoridad etérea y de ambientaciones repetitivas.
‘The Other Face’ posee mayor electrónica pero igual de confuso en sus tres minutos, mientras que ‘Transit’ (único tema cantado) se inicia con choques astrales luego de los que al promediar los cuarenta segundos se escuchará la lírica de Sylvian sobre sonoridades excentricas que asemejan distorsiones vocales. ‘The Point Of It All’ estremece desde un inicio por su fría composición paisajista para que al promediar los cuatro minutos se empiece a apreciar sonoridades de guitarra acústica. Más rítmico encontramos los guitarreos de Fennesz en el décimo tema ‘Laguna’ una suerte de slowcore noventero bien hecho al que le seguirá ‘asusu’ (de segundos) para terminar con ‘The stone of impermanence’ una suerte de descomposiciones guitarreras con similitud a distorsiones al que le seguirán sonidos más suaves entre los que podemos encontrar al de un cascabel.(?)
Finalmente, no está demás destacar sus principales trabajos en ambos labels, para Mego: el EP en vinilo en 12 pulgadas número 004 (hoy descatalogado): Instrument (1995), y en años consecutivos: Hotel Paral.Lel (1997), The single plays, The magic sound of Fenno´berg (triada compuesta, además, por Peter Rehberg “Pita” y Jim O´Rourke); Endless summer del 2001 y The return of Fenn O´Berg al año siguiente. Para Touch Musicdestacan: Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56´37 minus Sixteen Degrees 51´08″ (grabado en su jardín en Austria) de 1999, Live at Revolver, Melbourne de 2000 y Fields Recordings 1995-2002, suerte de compilación de trabajos para películas, remixes y el EP: Instrument. También, el 2003 se lanzó su Live in Japan -mediante el sello Headz- y la colaboración con Sylvian en el track ‘A fire in the Forest’ del disco del ex-Japan, lo cual se retribuiría en el presente Venice.
album of the year
1. Fennesz, “Venice”
2. Devendra Banhart, “Rejoicing in the Hands”
3. Sonic Youth, “Sonic Nurse”
4. Coil, “Black Antlers”
5. Animal Collective, “Sung Tongs”
6. Devendra Banhart, “Nino Rojo”
7. Einstürzende Neubauten, “Perpetuum Mobile”
8. Tom Waits, “Real Gone”
9. Pan Sonic, “Kesto”
10. Björk, “Medulla”
Three years between albums is a long time in the hyper-real world of experimental electronic music. But that’s how long it’s taken Austrian wunderkind Christian Fennesz to create a followup to 2000’s groundbreaking Endless Summer. Venice is Fennesz’s fourth studio full-length album, and, already on first impressions, a very important addition to his canon. The laptop composer had been kept busy in the three years, not just with touring but also with remixing and musical collaborations. So it’s a supreme delight that Venice comes across as an unhurried, and attentively crafted work. Continuing the playful dalliance with pop first sampled on Endless Summer, Venice is pretty and accessible. “Rivers of Sand”, the album’s opening track tacks cavernous bass notes to sheets of feedback. “The Other Face” offers up another surprise–vocal samples were never a staple in Fennesz’s music–but here they flit in and out of a repeated cycle of buzzing like disembodied spirits in search of release. The album’s two highlights, depending on your preference, would either be “Circassian” or “Transit”. Fans of Fennesz are always able to hear the latter’s My Bloody Valentine fixation. Well, they would thrill to “Circassian”, a manipulation of mutated power chords that wouldn’t feel out of place on Isn’t Anything. On the other hand, “Transit” features David Sylvian on vocals, and locates its still, focussed beauty on a lone organ. Quite obviously, Fennesz is a musician who’s not afraid to spend as much time as he needs fashioning melodies and pursuing that perfect texture. For that unique quality alone, we should be grateful. [Lee Chung Horn]
Try as I might, I can never come to an understanding of the fascination so many have with Christian Fennesz. His 2001 record, Endless Summer, never touched me in the same way it seemed to touch numerous critics and fans; even repeated listens could not cure the inertness I felt while listening to the music. Put simply: I’ve always found Fennesz’s albums overrated and tame. That’s why it came as a surprise to find Venice impressing me on some levels. As a whole the record drags on just as much as its predecessors have, but there are a few songs on the album that come out of left field and strike me to a degree that I could never have expected. The opener, “Rivers of Sand,” is a pulsating work full of struggling chords and bereft melodies that disappear mysteriously only emerge triumphantly on the other end of death as some fizzling and hissing memory more powerful than before. The combination of highly-processed sound and near-pure flourishes resonates in a way that few other songs from this composer ever have. Between songs like “River of Sand” and “Circassian” are pieces that fail to evoke any happiness or intrigue in me. “City of Light” is a moaning exercise in patience that never touches on the promise of its title. While there is some peace to be found in the slowly morphing chords processed and reprocessed by Fennesz, there are few significant or lavish sounds that make continued listening a joy. Everything sounds like it is a little too perfectly in its place. Where Venice succeeds is in its more bare and acoustic moments. “Circassian” emenates an ebb and flow in the electronic realm that suggests wind-swept plains and ancient civilizations. But just below that ebb and flow is a distinct and gorgeous strumming, something for the present and familiar that sinks into my skin and makes the unknown an appreciable entity. “Laguna” works for the same reason – it’s a track dominated entirely by an acoustic guitar, but with one mild and completely endearing electronic effect: a bad mic. If Fennesz is capable of melody and beauty as great as this, why he is concentrating on distortion and laptop trickery is beyond me. With the highlights safely out of the way, I can still express my confusion about Fennesz’s supposed brilliance. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a gifted individual and that is capable of producing some excellent music, but the bulk of Venice suggests to me that he hasn’t even begun to tap his abilities as a writer and performer. I have no doubt that this will be hailed as another incredible record and that fans everywhere will absolutely adore this record, but until Fennesz gets very experimental and takes a chance at a nearly unedited, unprocessed, acoustic record, I’ll be getting my kicks elsewhere. [Lucas Schleicher]
Brian Eno’s founding maxim about ambient music was that it should be “as ignorable as it is interesting”. If this is a sufficient condition for a great record – then Fennesz has entered the arena of the truly wonderful. Like a musical Derren Brown, this album always seems to know what you are thinking and never fails to work its atmospheric magic in any situation where you find yourself listening to it. This is only Christian Fennesz’s fourth album in seven years; clearly great art takes time. Opening tracks “Rivers Of Sand” and “Chateau Rouge” pulsate with warm ambient loveliness and creak with sonic static electricity, while “Circassian” has a mildly unsettling My Bloody Valentine-esque drone that sounds as if it about to implode under its own emotional intensity, and David Sylvian croaks along to “Transit” sounding like Nick Cave. There is not a single track to find fault with here, this is a truly lovely record. And if the music doesn’t float your particular boat, Venice is almost worth owning just for the dreamy cardboard CD case with absolutely stunning photographs; another example of great cover art (which seems to be the Touch label policy – presumably an effort to stem the tide of downloading). This is a record that you should not only download, you should also own an original for yourself, and while you are at it buy one for somebody else in your life whose lot you would like to improve just a little bit… [Ed F]
‘Venice’ is the official follow up to the groundbreaking ‘Endless Summer’, a record with a legendary pedigree and with sales substantial enough to have shaken up its label (Mego) to the extent that they seem to have been on a mission ever since to keep it as difficult as it gets. It seems Touch has no such hangs up. This is an amazing album that will no doubt come to be as highly regarded as ‘Endless Summer’ though musically its a much more varied affair, reflected by the contrasting imagery in the digipak photography (an old and new rowing boat moored up / nature and classic architecture reflected through water / an ice bound airport / an evening shot of a weir). Check the heartbreak rushing melancholy of the opener ‘Rivers Of Sand’ to the somewhat playful ‘Chateau Rouge’ then the freeze framed longing of ‘City Of Light’. ‘Circassian’ featuring the searing guitar of Burkhard Stangl will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The justifiable hyped up collaboration with David Sylvian is as you’d expect, upfront confessional lyrics behind the buzz and hum of plucked electrical wirings and trapped angels – amazing. My personal favourite is ‘The Point Of It All’ which has the most beautiful harmonies you’ll have heard close up all year plus the tempo and mood shifts. The most brutal track on display ‘The Stone Of Impermanence’ rounds out this collection in a pure Mego rush of ear splitting intensity but still with that essential Fennesz melodic undergrowth. This is one essential album… if you’ve not already bought this wondrous album, you need to do so without delay. Truly life enhancing music.
2004 Year End Inclusions:
Venice, which somehow manages to sound like an aural translation of string theory. Or any other spatial theory that a layman like me can’t hope to understand. Each song is connected by a strange, enveloping glue that makes everything sound as peaceful as the wading paddle-boat on this album’s cover. The whole thing is a bit Zen I suppose, but Fennesz manages to dodge any hint of a new-age vibe with his churning chord theatrics. Every now and then an especially high wave of guitars will linger (as on the grand “Cirassian”) only to eventually fade back into the ambient ocean. A touchstone of subtle brilliance.
Pay attention to Christian Fennesz. He is at the forefront of music’s future, foiling computer brushstrokes with his undying love of pop. On Venice, he ups the ante, allowing his pieces to ebb and flow, like its namesake’s watery environs. Fennesz is one of the few current digital dilettantes to fix his mouse on mood and emotion. Guitarist Burkhard Stangl’s blues-ish riffing adds extra soul to what is usually a cold computer world. On “Circassian”, (named for Sunni Muslims of non-Arab descent), the guitar rips like an Eno-Fripp collaboration, both synthetic calm and Hendrix pyrotechnics. On “Transit”, former Japan vocalist David Sylvian’s lament hints at Europe’s end days. Fennesz never left the guitar; appropriately, he’s recently returned to using one onstage. Venice is one of the great modern electronic works; refracting deftly embedded melody into a thousand pieces of colorful tone, the guitar’s lines shining like sunlight through cracks in a wall, sharp as diamonds. [Chris Toene]
Fennesz: Venice (Touch, March 22nd) The textures on Venice, the latest ablum by experimental electronic artist Christian Fennesz, grabbed my attention like few albums this year. It’s a beautiful suite of ambient music. David Sylvian lends vocals to the song “Transit.” When given the time, a listen to Venice from start to finish is really the only way to enjoy it.
JACKPOT RECORDS BEST OF 2004 RECOMMENDATION!! This record stops just shy of teasing listeners, as it shifts back and forth from tremendously emotional melody to static hiss. Like crying and trying to focus on your best friend’s face, the momentary clarity of blinking away tears slowly obscured as your eyes fill back up. As difficult as it is beautiful, this record ought to sound just as heartachingly necessary five, even fifty, years from today.
THE CMG 2004 YEAR-END EXTRAVAGANZA: TOP 50 COMBINED RATINGS OF 2004
If you knew Fennesz, if you loved Fennesz, and if you were advising your friend on how to try out Fennesz, the answer would always be: “start with his latest album.” Of course, putting the words “try out” alongside “Fennesz” is immensely absurd. You don’t try out Fennesz albums. You worm your way into them, you inhabit them for days, and then you come out musically reborn. It took me at least a dozen close, uninterrupted listens, and twice that many cursory listens, to understand, appreciate and eventually love Endless Summer when that was Fennesz’s most approachable album. Venice has now taken over that title – but thankfully Fennesz’s (infinitesimally) growing “accessibility” has not taken away from the beauty of his works. [Amir Karim Nezar]
While Jóhann Jóhannsson launched chilly air-born arias in 2004, fellow Touch artist, Parisian/Viennese electro composer and guitarist Christain Fennesz, turned-in a cavernous, reverberating My Bloody Valentine riverbed streaming with stringed miscellany and soft-cornered static. Fennesz is most most hypnotic when his instrumentation’s unidentifiable. On his first studio album since 2001’s Endless Summer, he evokes waterlogged, crystalline interiors and – quite magically – his opaque formula remains equally diffuse. Hyperbole aside, the only misstep is “Transit” and its tremulous vocal harmonies; but in its wake Fennesz wisely submerges the listener back into the murky instrumental depths for the album’s remaining four tracks. Complementing this dark blue geography, labelhead Jon Wozencroft’s accompanying photos of pitch-black ocean loam, shivering curlicues of an icy airport, peeling salty boats anchored into shadows, and the prosaic world dispersed through reflective water, unpack Venice’s quiet beauty better than anything written on the album thus far. [Brandon Stosuy]
Three years between albums is a long time in the hyper-real world of experimental electronic music. But that’s how long it’s taken Austrian wunderkind Christian Fennesz to create a followup to 2000’s groundbreaking Endless Summer. Venice is an unhurried, and attentively crafted work. Continuing the playful dalliance with pop first showcased on Endless Summer, Venice is pretty and accessible. “The Other Face” has vocal samples, never a staple in Fennesz’s music, flitting in and and out of a drone-buzz like disembodied spirits in search of release. Venice also breaks new ground. “Rivers of Sand”, the album’s opening track tacks cavernous bass notes to sheets of feedback. Also, “Transit” features David Sylvian on vocals, and locates its still, focussed beauty on a lone organ. The texture, the texture!
På toppen av elektronika-haugen 2004 ligger denne plata fra østerrikeren Christian Fennesz. Som et av ny elektronisk musikks mest anerkjente navn er det underlig at hans nye album ikke har fått skandinavisk distribusjon før nå. Særlig ikke siden hans forrige album «Endless Summer» (2001) ble genierklært over store deler av den vestlige verden.
Christian Fennesz startet som gitarist i et eksperimentelt rockband, men som soloartist har han utforsket kombinasjonen gitar og laptop, og utviklet et helt eget og innflytelsesrikt sound. Han legger lag på lag med lyder og klanger i rike, men samtidig direkte og emosjonelt ladede komposisjoner. Og han tar seg god tid, «Venice» er hans fjerde soloalbum siden 1995. Innimellom har han samarbeidet med vidt forskjellige artister som Jim O Rourke og norske Geir «Biosphere» Jenssen, og i 2003 var han med på det modige comebackalbumet til David Sylvian, som er gjestevokalist her. Plata er hovedsakelig spilt inn i Venezia, og på sin abstrakte måte maler Fennesz et nattfarget lydbilde av døsige bølger som slår over restene av forgangen europeisk kultur.
Sylvians distinkte stemme preger den eneste vokallåten på «Venice»; «Transit», som ligger midt på plata som et punkt hele albumet dreier seg rundt («say your goodbyes to Europe/swallow the lie of Europe/our shared history dies with Europe»). Mange holder «Endless Summer» som Fennesz’ beste, med sine muterte Beach Boys-inspirerte gitarsløyfer; «Venice» er på mange måter vel så interessant, den er dypere og mørkere og mer utfordrende. Fotografiene og designet på cd-omslaget kommuniserer med musikken på en slik måte at opplevelsen ville blitt fattigere som ren lyd. Slik sett er «Venice» også en seier for det truede cd-formatet.
Christian Fennesz can build small cities from things as slight as glitches, hum and over-amplified guitar, and this album collects a dozen examples of his soundcraft: the orchestral depth of “The Point of It All”; the vibrant chaos of “The Stone of Impermanence,” with a melody buried deep in its core; the buzzing liveliness of “Circassian.” One highlight is “Transit,” a vocal track featuring singer David Sylvian (following up Fennesz’s work on Sylvian’s Blemish from last year); it’s like a Wim Wenders film condensed to under five minutes.
Village Voice (USA):
With all the excitement of watching an office temp download a Paris Hilton clip at his cubicle, that upside-down glow of the Apple logo illuminates most Powerbook performers as tedious enough to make Kraftwerk look like the Scorpions. That chin-scratching audiences could discern a G3-tar plucking ditties inside the dizzying katydid clicks of Austrian rock guitarist-turned-laptopper Christian Fennesz’s 2001 breakthrough album, Endless Summer, popped him out of the noise crowd, rendering him commercially viable as computer music’s first guitar god.
Rather than follow it up, Fennesz globe-trots with Jim O’Rourke and Pita, the Polwechsel quartet, Sparklehorse, or ex-Japan crooner David Sylvian, or else remixes the jiggy-sissy Junior Boys and the im-Material Girl herself. He also trots out those most rote of rock maneuvers, an odds-and-sods comp (Field Recordings 1997–2002) and a live album—from Japan, no less!—echoing the dinosaurs that once rocked the earth: Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan, Deep Purple’s Made in Japan, even the Scorps’ own Tokyo Tapes.
Shunning pyrotechnics and fiery leads, Fennesz instead cops the licks of other ’70s guitar heroes: Fripptronic components bob in a watery tub of dub as Florian Fricke’s acoustic balances precariously above. The cherry wood warps as erratic jolts of electricity course through his shriveled fingertips, drowning out half-formed melodies in washes of white noise. Pastoral musings distend as they get sucked down the drain, and though it doesn’t really rock like a hurricane, it churns like one. Hyped as the greatest laptop concert ever (though his Live in Detroit boot is more visceral), Live in Japan simply updates arena-rock formula: download and deliver hits, saving catchiest number code (“Shisheido”) for encore.
After album-length postcards of places such as Barcelonan pensiones, Australian tourist traps, and his backyard coordinates, Fennesz recorded the entirety of Venice in . . . you guessed it. Rested and ready, it’s his most complacent disc yet, less concerned with pushing envelopes than having something to say beyond “Wish you were here.” That voice in “Transit” is Sylvian in correspondence, tilting the album toward Scott Walker country. “Circasian” has all the majesty of San Marco Basilica drones with none of the swarming pigeons. Multiple dimensions of melody get compressed to oily surface tension. Notes are motorless, impermanent; they merely float and reflect the glimmer of the sinking city’s capillary action. [Andy Beta]
Distillati fremiti, eleganti dissonanze, accordi struggenti: le atmosfere della Venezia di Fennesz ricordano in qualche modo le suggestioni sontuose e decadenti, splendidamente descritte da Thomas Mann e poi rese in immagini, altrettanto sofisticate, nel celeberrimo film di Luchino Visconti. Tutto in questa raffinata produzione, nonostante la contemporaneità dei suoni, riporta ad un senso di nostalgia, di perdita, allo stesso modo le astrazioni, nelle strutture estremamente sperimentali, sbandano verso pulsioni descrittive. Un doppio binario, melodia ed elettronica, ricerca colta e facile gioco emozionale, facendo vibrare la voce sensuale di David Sylvian, ad esempio, in ‘Transit’, unica traccia non strumentale, quasi un appendice di ‘Blemish’, ultimo atto dell’ex pop-star poi convertita verso sponde concettuali comunque molto fruibili. Una sorta di romanticismo più, pervade questi solchi, romanticismo più ambient, più post-rock, più glitch, più laptop music, più tecnica strumentale e digitale. Innovazione, stile personalissimo e un senso immanente delle cose sembrano far parte di un unico progetto e molto a questo proposito ci racconta anche il curatissimo artwork della confezione, ad opera di Jon Wozencroft: due barche ma la foto sembra quasi irreale, palazzi riflessi nell’acqua che potrebbero essere deformati da un effetto digitale, un’immagine informale, sottacendo però fluidi riverberi di natura. Fatto ad arte, verrebbe da dire, con molta arte e conoscenza (e vorrei, se possibile, che questa affermazione non sia considerata un’allusione sulla qualità del prodotto, inequivocabilmente altissima). Toni evocativi, paesaggi visionari, tensioni mantenute sospese, un aria malinconica a fare da sfondo, un disco osannato da molti, splendidamente in bilico nella pretesa di traghettare il nuovo che avanza verso stati di sensibilità maggiormente condivisibili anche da un pubblico meno avvezzo alle avanguardie. [Aurelio Cianciotta]
A very great deal has already been written about this record, and little remains for the present reviewer except to either add another voice to the chorus of praise and wonder or to dissent. Despite the attractions of contrariness, the only possible choice is the former. There is no other glitch album, and precious few albums of any kind, that can lay claim to the kind of subtlety, charm, warmth, and splendor of Austrian sound designer and guitarist Christian Fennesz’ album of last year, his tribute to the city of Venice. Indeed, one of the very few to come close is Fennesz’s previous album, the Beach Boys tribute Endless Summer. As on that album, Venice’s smeary surfaces are largely products of manipulating the electric guitar, sometimes gently, elongating and reverberating riffs into tinnily clanging echo-chambers, and at other times so completely that the source sound is unrecognizable. An analog from the visual arts to Fennesz’s work on eleven of these twelve woozily shimmering tracks (David Sylvian’s prominent vocal contribution to “Transit” renders it a different kind of beast altogether) would be the most abstract paintings of impressionist Claude Monet, with the key difference that whatever programmatic content, whatever “subject,” there may be to these tracks is hidden, except in the song titles, which are opaque (e.g., “The Point of it All,” “Rivers of Sand”). That the one vocal track on the album, the aforementioned “Transit,” is a kind of love-song and farewell to a vanished Europe, can’t help but cast the rest of the album in that light however, and Venice is, after all, a sinking city. There is an elegiac, haunting, always-already disappearing quality to Venice, which adds heft to its dreaminess, and poignance to its beauty. [Matthew Marten]