Fennesz – Bécs (Mego)


Bécs launches as a muddy psychedelic bassy melange of guitar and fluid sonic production technique. If your attachment to music is to induce emotional states, indeed if you believe that emotional states can be conveyed through music, then a claim that Bécs is an emotionally “lighter’ album would not be a mistake. “Static Kings”, the first track, is all of these things: it demonstrates Fennesz’ guitar technique and manipulations of distortion, noise achieved through analog mixing desks and electronic means. It does not shy away from revealing more of the melody, which earlier albums “hid’ under the specific technique of construction that Fennesz employs. Avid noise fans will of course be grinding their teeth as having experienced noise associated with specific emotional states they may well react positively to such conditioning and reject out of hand the idea that emotional states are at all able to be musically encapsulated. Indeed I shall drop this line of discussion.

“The Liar” is a sharper attack of static and epic positioning before building up guitar scapes and wrenched out distortions in layers. There are background, almost choral drones and plenty of residual static. The metaphor of sculpture to music is not astray here, as the spatial placement and flow of the elements can be viewed as a dimensional sound event even if such a description is absurd. The denouement of the track elapses to the beginning attack element with accompanied bright exit stabs. “Liminality”, a studio version of the live version of Fennesz’ earlier track “Liminal”, includes drumming from The Necks‘ Tony Buck. It is more in the vein of a guitar and atmosphere number accompanied by frenetic moments of drumming to underscore aspects of the piece. “Liminality” has so many layers of sound in drone-like form that form the foundation on which the guitar blithely sits that it seems effortlessly apparent yet elevated simplicity through the combination of multitudes of parts. This complex simplicity is a skill Fennesz uses over and over again, a massive chaos wall of simplicity as epic theatre for a guitarist.

“Pallas Athene” begins as ascetic electronic minimalism of a brighter-toned dronescape with moody aspects. Title track “Bécs” is back in familiar guitar noise territory with all the strutting and sonic sculpture, then mood and melody supplied by a simple tonal meandering up and down a short register before the axe noise takes full flight and envelopes the whole spectrum. It is a full spectrum assault, with and without subtlety. It holds attention well and demands complete immersion.

“Sav” has a great deal of experimental noise percussion in its beginning, the kind you will hear at your local experimental music club that has small audience numbers but far reach. Where the avant-everything heads are busily deconstructing all their instruments and reforming them into wild and unheard forms. That’s the game plan here: set in an ambient-styled form, the general play of sonic possibilities is collected and displayed. It ends with even greater skittish experimentation and the sonic play here is the most distinct and imaginative on the album.

“Paroles” ends the album on a bright note, acoustic guitar bright and clear, with wandering melodic tonal aspects, touches of static-like noise that briefly touch the gleam. It is the closest Fennesz gets to pop, albeit classical acoustic with experimental electric guitar disturbances as if the radio has experienced interruption due to overlapping signals. But then Fennesz is playing in an arena with more than one signal streaming at once.



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