Tone 23 – Fennesz “Live in Japan”

[vinyl only through Autofact, USA]

Track list:

A. Live In Japan
B. Live In Japan


Pitchfork (USA):

Several of Fennesz’ live dates—solo, head to head with the improviser Keith Rowe, as a part of Fenn O’Berg, and alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto—have made it to disc, but this unbroken, 43-minute set from early 2003 is as pure and concentrated a blast of Christian Fennesz’ method and vision as you’ll find. Maybe it’s because Fennesz is as much a guitarist as a laptopper, but something about the way he uses reverb actually lends the impression that you’re hearing him in a big room, even as the precision of his digitally carved sounds is as vivid as that of any studio-created electronic music. (The set’s been recorded off the soundboard, so there is no crowd noise or room ambience.)

Listeners familiar with the Austrian musician’s catalog may recognize motifs reprised from previous albums, but there are few recognizable songs or even track divisions; the noisy, shapeshifting set is a largely lateral journey that twists like a slow-moving river through the high desert. It opens with burrs of static clinging to each other, and rubbed glass, distant string samples, and the buzz of what sounds like petulant bumblebees sketch out its textures. For some stretches, it feels like eavesdropping on intergalactic radio interference, straining your ears for some sign of life amidst all the randomized white noise. Elsewhere, there’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar broken into digital shards, like a malfunctioning hologram of a campfire strummer. Towards the end, the music fades out and is followed by a brief silence (originally filled with applause, I suppose) before it ramps back up into a final fistful of fingerpicking, a melodic snippet of xylophone, and a crushing climax that feels like the previous 40 minutes being twisted up and pulled through the eye of a needle. It’s a hell of a way to end a hell of a show. [Philip Sherburne]