Christian Fennesz

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Hotel Paral.Lel , 6.5/10
Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56'37" Minus Sixteen Degrees 51'08" , 6.5/10
Music for an Isolation Tank , 5/10
Magic Sound , 6/10
Return of Fenn O' Berg , 5/10
Endless Summer , 7/10
Dawn , 5/10
Venice (2004), 6.5/10
Black Sea (2008), 7/10
Knoxville (2010), 4/10
Flumina (2011), 5/10
Becs (2014), 6/10
Agora (2019), 5/10

Expanding on an idea that had first been embraced by Seefeel and that had infected countless British artists (Flying Saucer Attack, Experimental Audio Research), Vienna-based guitarist Christian Fennesz has made a career out of heavily treated guitar drones and noises.

Fennesz debuted with the four-track EP Instrument (Mego, 1995). The album Hotel Paral.Lel (Mego, 1997) represented the first major expression of his vision. It would also remain his harshest work, influenced by industrial music, by Autechre's digital techno and by Merzbow's free-form noise. Fennesz, basically, introduced himself as a composer of electronic music for electric guitar. Fennesz marked his territory between post-electronic musique concrete and post-ambient ambience with #2, a violent mass of sustained noises moving along the spectrum, Nebenraum, a wavering tone that dissolves into a limping proto-melody, Blok M, a morphing beat for a rhythm-less music, Santora, sounding like a dying motorcycle engine, Delhi Plaza, a march of miasmatic robots, Fa, a series of agonizing drones, Traxdata, a flow of violent discontinuities, etc. It often sounded like Throbbing Gristle turned into chamber music.

The single Plays (Mego, 1998), that deconstructs two classics of rock and roll, is another powerful manifestation of this metabolic process.

Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56'37" Minus Sixteen Degrees 51'08" (Touch, 1999) was to My Bloody Valentine what the early works had been to Throbbing Gristle: it wasn't noise for the sake of noise but a living organism of sound effects. Sidereal tones give birth to a distorted melody in 010 that enters an endless loop of repetition. After the random intergalactic beeps and glitches of the brief 011, Fennesz delves into the unnerving and chaotic ecosystem of 012, reminiscent of early computer music. A feast of sharp frenzied tones in 013 mutates into a fractured melody that interferes with videogame sounds and assorted digital improvisations. A loud, relentless surf of noise engulfs 014 for eight minutes, whereas 015 stands as its alter-ego: a subliminal flow of sonic insects (that a loud shrill drone briefly obscures). The dadaistic impulse of abstract soundpainting was mediated by an elegant dissection of acoustic properties.

Music for an Isolation Tank (Rhyz, 2000) continued the experiment while softening the edges. The music was still dense, at times massive, obscure, menacing, but not impossible.

Afternoon Tea (february 2000 - Ritornell, 2000 - Weird Forest, 2010) was a collaboration among Keith Rowe, Paul Gough (Pimmon), Oren Ambarchi, Peter Rehberg (Pita), and Christian Fennesz that pioneered live hard-disc editing (via Powerbook software) as a new form of collective improvisation.

Magic Sound (Mego, 2000) and Return of Fenn O' Berg (Mego, 2002) document live performances with Peter Rehberg (Pita) and Jim O'Rourke.

If the previous albums were philosophical treatises, Endless Summer (Mego, 2001) is a poetic work, one that rediscovers the power of melody in a world that is largely dissonant. Thus the futuristic muzak of Made in Hong Kong, in which melodic themes recur cyclically albeit transformed into descrete sequences of digital events, the sweet waves of distortions lulled by folkish guitar in Endless Summer, Shisheido (a brief piano-based lullaby), Caecilia (a nostalgic proto-tune emerging from the shapeless breathing of the electronics, perhaps the most poignant track), "songs" that point towards a parallel universe of purely melodic sounds, but visible to us only through the fuzzy prism of quantum spacetime. At the same time, Fennesz has not given up on his most extreme passions: A Year in a Minute (cycling masses of organic drones), Got to Move On (buzzing heaps of decomposing objects), Before I Leave (a wavering organ-like intereference), Happy Audio (ten minutes of crackling noise, signaling the end of the "record") drill further down in the cells of that grid to test the ultimate nature of matter.

Dawn (Grob, 2002) is a collaboration with saxophonist Peter Van Bergen and keyboardist Gert-Jan Prins.

Field Recordings 1995:2002 (Touch, 2002) collects rarities, including Instrument.

Wrapped Islands (Erstwhile, 2002) is a collaboration with the jazz improvisation ensemble Polwechsel.

GRM Experience (Signature, 2004) was a collaboration among Christian Fennesz, Mika Vainio and Christian Zanesi.

Fennesz's treated-guitar glitch-pop reached another apex on Venice (Touch, 2004), his most tenderly romantic work yet. Most of the tracks exude the impressionist shoegazing quality of, say, Seefeel, but some also rank among his most touching artifacts: Rivers of Sand, an elegy "sung" by a choir of distorted "voices", Chateau Rouge, that toys with a cyclical melody yielding an elegant rondo of computer music, and The Stone Of Impermanence, a cacophonous quasi-metal "power-ballad" for loud and distorted guitar that could have been a score for Neil Young and that disappears into an electrically charged vacuum. At the same time, Fennesz's music was becoming ever more psychological. The simple droning panorama of City Of Light projects a dejected and almost lugubrious feeling. The denser and louder drone of Circassian drowns a dancing lullaby. The rhythmic Moebius strip of The Point Of It All unveils neurosis and fear. Transit was Fennesz's venture into vocal music, a somber ballad (sung by David Sylvian), accompanied with banging guitar and brooding electronics.

Martin Brandlmayr (drums, percussion, vibraphone, computer and piano), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass, tape delay and computer) and Christian Fennesz (electric and acoustic guitar and computer) improvised and then edited Till The Old World's Blown Up And A New One Is Created (march 2005).

The 20-minute ambient EP Sala Santa Cecilia (Touch, 2005) is the product of a laptop-based collaboration between Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto. It is self-indulgent and quite trivial. It was followed by Cendre (Touch, 2007).

Live In Japan (Autofact, 2007) documents one of his free-form improvisations.

the single Transition (Touch, 2008)

RegenOrchester XII (december 2006) was a quintet with Franz Hautzinger on quartertone trumpet, Christian Fennesz on guitar and computer, Otomo Yoshihide on turntables and guitar, bass and drums.

4G is the supergroup of Keith Rowe, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz and Toshimaru Nakamura, i.e. four former guitarists who mutated into digital composers. They debuted with the double-disc Cloud (Erstwhile, 2005) for guitars, electronics and laptop.

The EP June (Table Of The Elements, 2008) contained a piece that seemed to hark back to industrial music.

Black Sea (Touch, 2008), his first solo album in four years, again sculpted with guitar and computer, ranked as one of his most poignant and gloomy works. Fennesz excels at choreography. The melancholy, evocative guitar postcard of Black Sea is sandwiched between a grotesque ballet of videogame noise and a blurred nebula of debris. The ecstatic "om" of Glide emerges from the emptiest depth of the universe as a synchornized population of drones only to fade away even faster than it came. He is also a master of metamorphosis: the wall of noise of The Colour Of Three slowly reveals a revolving melodic core, like a fetus that is growing and maturing. He still has the same subtle ear for timbres that he had in his early noisy stage, and he proves it with the cryptic undeveloped sounds of Glass Ceiling. He is less impressive when adopting simpler strategies, like the quiet fingerpicking of Grey Scale and the placid ambient music of Vacuum. The cascading tones and the shoegazing distortion of Saffron Revolution merge to create a majestic stardust effect, a rational apotheosis of sorts to a speech that was mostly incoherent. Most of the pieces seemed to reflect the gloomy mood of the worldwide economic recession, with Saffron Revolution even sounding like a requiem for the modern world. If a few pieces sound like mere experiments on textural decoration, the majority constitute a rather plaintive and sober stream of consciousness, as if the painter had turned philosopher again and was meditating on the future of the human race by the shore of the vast cold sea.

The EP Seven Stars (Touch Tone, 2011), his first solo recording since Black Sea, contains four uneventful meditative pieces.

Knoxville (2010) documents a live performance by Christian Fennesz, guitarist David Daniell and drummer Tony Buck, and ranks as one of Fennesz's most self-indulgent works, mostly devoid of any aesthetic value.

Flumina (2011) was a double-disc collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian Fennesz, with Sakamoto composing the piano melodies and Fennesz "arranging" them electronically.

Fenn O'Berg's In Stereo (Editions Mego, 2010) was the most focused jam yet from the trio of Christian Fennesz, Jim O'Rourke, and Peter Rehberg.

Fennesz also contributed to the soundtrack to a film by Austrian director Edgar Honetschlager. Aun (Ash International, 2012).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Andrea Marengo)

Sviluppando un'idea già abbracciata dai Seefeel che ha contaminato innumerevoli musicisti britannici (Flying Saucer Attack, Experimental Audio Research), il chitarrista viennese Christian Fennesz si è costruito una carriera basandola sui droni e i rumori della chitarra fortemente trattata.

Fennesz debuttò con l'EP di otto tracce Instrument (Mego, 1995). L'album Hotel Paral. Lel (Mego, 1997) rappresentò la prima espressione significativa (nonché quella destinata probabilmente a rimanere la più aspra) della sua fantasia. Influenzato dalla musica industriale, dalla techno digitale degli Autechre e dal noise free-form di Merzbow: Fennesz si propose, fondamentalmente, come un compositore di musica elettronica per chitarra elettrica. Fennesz marcò il suo territorio tra la musica concreta post-elettronica e il rumore d'ambiente post-ambientale con #2, una violenta massa di rumori prolungati, Nebenraum, una nota oscillante che si dissolve in una zoppicante proto-melodia, Blok M, una pulsazione mutante per una musica senza ritmo, Santora, che somiglia al motore morente di una motocicletta, Delhi Plaza, una marcia di robot miasmatici, Fa, una serie di droni agonizzanti, Traxdata, un flusso di discontinuità violente, ecc. Sembra di ascoltare i Throbbing Gristle convertiti alla musica da camera.

Il singolo Plays (Mego, 1998) era un'altra potente manifestazione di questo processo metabolico che decostruisce due classici del rock 'n' roll.

Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56'37'' Minus Sixteen Degrees 51'08'' (Touch, 1998) era tanto fedele ai My Bloody Valentine quanto ai primi lavori attribuiti ai Throbbing Gristle: non era rumore che aveva come fine il rumore stesso ma rumore che aveva come fine un organismo vivente fatto di effetti sonori. Toni siderali fanno nascere una melodia distorta su 010 che entra in un loop  infinito di ripetizioni. Dopo i bip e le disfunzioni casuali della breve 011, Fennesz esplora l'ecosistema caotico e debilitante di 012, che ricorda la prima computer music. Un banchetto di note acute su 013 muta in una melodia fratturata che interferisce con i suoni di un videogioco e con improvvisazioni digitali assortite. Un frangente sonoro implacabile di rumore inghiottisce 014 per otto minuti, laddove 015 è il suo alter ego: un flusso subliminale di insetti sonori (che un forte drone penetrante nasconde brevemente). L'impulso dadaista del soundpainting era mediato da un elegante analisi delle proprietà acustiche.

Music For An Isolation Tank (Rhiz, 2000) proseguiva l'esperimento smussando gli angoli. La musica rimaneva densa, a volte massiccia, oscura e minacciosa, ma non impossibile.

Afternoon Tea (febbraio 2000 - Ritornell 2000 - Weird Forest, 2010) era una collaborazione tra Keith Row, Paul Gough (Pimmon), Oren Ambarchi, Peter Rehberg (Pita), e Christian Fennesz che faceva da pioniere ai montaggi hard-disc dal vivo (tramite il software Powerbook) adoperando una nuova forma di improvvisazione collettiva.

Magic Sound (Mego, 2000) e Return Of Fenn O' Berg (Mego, 2002) documentano esibizioni dal vivo con Peter Rehberg (Pita) e Jim O'Rourke.

Se i primi album erano trattati filosofici, Endless Summer (Mego, 2001) era un lavoro poetico che riscopriva il potere della melodia in un mondo quasi del tutto dissonante. Non è un caso che la muzak futurista di Made In Hong Kong fosse composta da brevi melodie che si ripresentano ciclicamente (anche se trasformate in sequenze discrete di eventi digitali), le soavi onde di distorsioni cullate da una chitarra folk di Endless Summer, Shisheido (una breve ninnananna pianistica) e Caecilia (una nostalgica proto-nota che emerge da un confuso respiro elettronico, forse la traccia più intensa), si rivelassero "canzoni" che puntavano direttamente verso un universo parallelo di suoni puramente melodici ma a noi visibili solo attraverso l'indistinto prisma dell'intervallo spazio-tempo. Allo stesso tempo, Fennesz non ha rinunciato alle sue passioni più estreme: A Year In A Minute (masse cicliche di droni organici), Got To Move On (ammassi bisbiglianti di oggetti in decomposizione), Before I Leave (un'interferenza oscillante simile ad un organo) e Happy Audio (dieci minuti di rumore crepitante che segnala la fine del "disco") erano tracce che esploravano ancora più a fondo le cellule di quel reticolo per analizzare l'essenza della materia.

Dawn (Grob, 2002) è una collaborazione con il sassofonista Peter Van Bergen e il tastierista Gertjan Prins.

Field Recordings 1995:2002 (Touch, 2002) raccoglie rarità, Instrument compreso.

Wrapped Islands (Erswthile, 2002) è una collaborazione con il complesso di jazz improvvisato Polwechsel.

GRM Experience (Signature, 2004) era una collaborazione tra Christian Fennesz, Mika Vainio e Christian Zanesi.

La chitarra "glitch-pop" di Fennesz raggiungeva un altro apice su Venice (Touch, 2004), finora il suo lavoro più teneramente romantico. La maggior parte delle tracce emana la qualità shoegazing impressionista, per così dire, dei Seefeel, ma alcune si collocano tra i suoi artefatti più commoventi: Rivers Of Sand, un'elegia "cantata" da voci distorte, Chateau Rouge, che scimmiotta con una melodia ciclica abbandonata in un elegante rondò di computer music, The Stone Of Impermanence, una cacofonica "power-ballad" pressoché metal per chitarra rumorosa e distorta (poteva essere uno spartito ideale per Neil Young) che svanisce in un vuoto caricato elettricamente. Allo stesso tempo la musica di Fennesz stava diventando ancora più psicologica. Il semplice panorama droning di Circassian annega in una ninnananna danzante. Il ritmico nastro di Moebius The Point Of It All rivela nevrosi e paura. Transit era l'avventura di Fennesz nel canto, una cupa ballata nella quale la voce entra in scena a grande sorpresa accompagnata dalla chitarra sbattente e dall'elettronica meditabonda.

Martin Brandlmayr (batteria, percussioni, vibrafono, computer e pianoforte), Werner Dafeldecker (contrabbasso, delay e computer) e Christian Fennesz (chitarre acustica ed elettrica e computer) improvvisavano e pubblicavano Till The Old World's Blown Up And A New One Is Created (marzo 2005).

L'EP ambientale di venti minuti Sala Santa Cecilia (Touch, 2005) è il prodotto di una collaborazione tra Christian Fennesz e Ryuichi Sakamoto basata sui laptop. È un'opera auto-indulgente e abbastanza banale. Venne seguita da Cendre (Touch, 2007).

Live In Japan (Autofact, 2007) documenta una delle sue improvvisazioni free-form.

RegenOrchester XII (dicembre 2006) era un quintetto con Franz Hautzinger alla tromba a quattro toni, Christian Fennesz alla chitarra e al computer, Otomo Yoshihide ai giradischi, alla chitarra, al basso e ai timpani. 

4G è il supergruppo di Keith Rowe, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz e Toshimaru Nakamura, ovvero quattro chitarristi mutati in compositori digitali. Debuttarono con il doppio Cloud (Erstwhile, 2005), album per chitarre, elettronica e laptop.

L'EP June (Table Of The Elements, 2008) raccoglie una traccia che pare rievocare la musica industriale.

Il suo primo album solista dopo quattro anni, ovvero Black Sea (Touch, 2008), scolpiva adoperando chitarra e computer quello che era uno dei suoi lavori più lugubri e penetranti. La malinconica ed evocativa cartolina chitarristica di Black Sea è inserita a metà strada fra un grottesco balletto di rumori di un videogioco e un'indistinta nebulosa di detriti. L'estatico "om" di Glide emerge dalle più vuote profondità dell'universo come una popolazione di droni sincronizzati soltanto per sparire ancora più velocemente di come è arrivato. Fennesz è anche un maestro della metamorfosi: il muro di rumore di The Colour Of Three svela lentamente un nucleo rotante melodico, come un feto che cresce e matura. Fennesz conserva inoltre lo stesso orecchio acuto per i timbri che aveva nelle sue prime prove rumorose, come dimostrano i suoni embrionali ed enigmatici di Glass Ceiling. È invece meno emozionante quando adotta strategie più semplici, quali il fingerpicking pacato di Grey Scale e la placida ambient music di Vacuum. Le note che scendono a cascata e le distorsioni shoegazing di Saffron Revolution emergono per creare una maestosa atmosfera onirica e un'apoteosi razionale di linguaggi quasi del tutto incoerente. La maggior parte dei brani sembravano riflettere l'atmosfera cupa della recessione economica mondiale: Saffron Revolution sembra essere persino un requiem per il mondo moderno. Benché alcuni brani siano soltanto semplici esperimenti nella decorazione delle tessiture, la maggior parte di essi costituisce un flusso di coscienza piuttosto malinconico e pacato, come se il pittore fosse diventato nuovamente filosofo meditando sul futuro della razza umana dalla costa di un immenso mare freddo.

La sua prima registrazione solista dopo Black Sea, ovvero l'EP Seven Stars (Touch Tone, 2011), raccoglie quattro monotone tracce meditative.

Knoxville (2010) documenta un'esibizione dal vivo fra Christian Fennesz, il chitarrista David Daniell e il batterista Tony Buck, che si classifica tra i suoi lavori più auto-indulgenti. L'opera è in gran parte priva di valore artistico.

Il doppio Flumina (2011) era una collaborazione tra Christian Fennesz e Sakamoto che compone melodie pianistiche mentre Fennesz le "arrangia" elettronicamente.

In Stereo (Editions Mego, 2010) di Fenn'O Berg era fino a quel momento la jam più professionale del trio composta da Christian Fennesz, Jim O'Rourke e Peter Rehberg.

Fennesz collaborò anche alla colonna sonora di un film del regista australiano Edgar Honetschlager, Aun (Ash International, 2012).

17.02.12 (2013) is a live performance.

After too many collaborations and "occasional" music, Fennesz returned to his major artist vein with Becs (Mego, 2014). Static Kings stages gentle guitar chords surfing over waves of electronic noise and slowly drowns in the very blender that it has set in motion. The high points are the much more dramatic blizzards of distorted drones, namely The Liar and Becs (the former more savage, the latter lessened by a melody carefully hidden in the background). Liminality unleashes violent shards of guitar strumming that pierce a thick ether of distortion until the guitar basically crosses over to the other side, from where we can still barely hear it, still alive and repeating its monotonous call. Alas, there is some filler, like the facile glitchy ambient music of Sav, that any kid with a laptop can produce, or like the fluttering pipe-organ pattern of Pallas Athene, which would more properly belong to a relaxation new-age album of the 1980s. Even the acoustic finale of Paroles, perhaps meant as a philosophical corollary, can hardly qualify as a stroke of genius. Contributions by electronic keyboardist Cedric Steven, free-jazz bassist Werner Dafeldecker, Radian's drummer Martin Brandlmayr, and the Necks' drummer Tony Buck are virtually irrelevant: it is difficult what is what, so any virtuoso skill is lost in the mayhem.

There's A Light That Enters Houses With No Other House In Sight (SamadhiSound, 2014) was a collaboration among Franz Wright (spoken word), Christian Fennesz ( guitar, laptop), David Sylvian (piano, sampling, laptop, electronics) and John Tilbury (piano).

It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry (september 2015 - Mego, 2016) collects live improvisations by Christian Fennesz (guitar, laptop) and Jim O'Rourke (synthesizer).

Christian Fennesz's bedroom album Agora (2019) consists of four lengthy compositions that rely more than ever on computer manipulations. The result is abstract, subliminal music that is alive and has a strategy. In My Room (12:28) could be a sci-fi soundtrack: eerie pulsations morph into an ominous hissing drone which could be a field recording of electrical wires in a basement or of traffic in a tunnel, and, without even realizing it, we are slowly lulled into a Zen-like meditative atmosphere of a symphonic grandeur. However, the other pieces are not just unstable but confused, hardly justifying the duration. Rainfall (11:57) begins with a stormy dissonance that turns into oceanic waves, but after that it's all trivial doodling with computer software. Agora (12:09) glides into cosmic tranquillity without any of the pathos of old German kosmische musik. Overall, this is an amateurish work by a musician who is beginning to rely too much on the machine to compose his music.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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