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Electronic/Dance - Released March 29, 2019 | Touch

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Christian Fennesz made Agora in his flat after losing access to his proper studio. He recorded everything through headphones, and didn't go through the trouble of connecting every piece of equipment he owned. Understandably, the result isn't quite as intricately detailed as previous works like Venice or Bécs, but it brings to mind Moodymann's famous dictum that "it ain't what you got, it's what you do with what you have." These four compositions have a hazy quality which most likely would have been scrubbed away in a state-of-the-art studio, and they feel much more exploratory than his usual studio work, edging toward the improvisational spirit of his live performances and collaborations. Opening piece "In My Room" continues in the lineage of Fennesz's previous allusions to the Beach Boys, including his abstract "cover" of "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)," and of course his 2001 masterpiece Endless Summer. Sounding as isolated and reflective as its title, the piece consists of softly vibrating static waves and filtered noise sweeps, resembling a very tranquil space probe. "Rainfall" and "We Trigger the Sun" have a bit more of a rhythmic underpinning, although it's still closer to waves than pronounced drum beats. "Rainfall" begins with a slower section graced by shoegaze-like swirling guitar as well as soft, blurry vocals. The second half has more of a rapid flickering, almost like a fast-forwarding compact disc, yet this sense of forward momentum still feels a bit obscured by nebulous droning. "We Trigger the Sun" is filled with lush, glowing organ-like tones, and seems to hint at Endless Summer's pop-influenced melodies, but at a much more sprawled-out pace. The unpolished feel of Agora is a bit striking for a Fennesz release, but it's clearly just as carefully considered as his other albums, and makes a welcome addition to his catalog. ~ Paul Simpson

Experimental - Released October 20, 2014 | Touch

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Experimental - Released December 5, 2011 | Touch

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Dance - Released December 11, 2006 | Editions Mego

With a title and cover artwork so obviously referring to the Beach Boys, one had to anticipate that this 2001 full-length CD by Fennesz would be more melodious than usual. It is, but you'll only get as close to surf music as the imagination of an experimental electronica artist from Vienna, Austria, will allow you to -- and that's still quite far. Fennesz puts the emphasis on sunny melodies and a somewhat lighter atmosphere, but drowns them in glitch textures. The result strikes and disconcerts. Easy solutions do not fill this man's cup of tea. The melodies are never played throughout, but dismembered, notes assigned to different instruments or electronically cut up and reassembled. The vibraphone in "Caecilia" has been tripled, some notes appear upfront, parts of the main theme happen in the background. Another example: The long notes making up the main line in "Before I Leave" are played on a organ, but the sound is constantly interrupted by clicks, producing an analog/digital effect of the weirdest kind. The pieces themselves are bipolar: while the melody remains stuck in its groove, repeating endlessly in post-rock fashion, the textures evolve beautifully. Yet, the listener is left with a deceiving impression of stagnation. The ultra kitsch flavor of some cuts (like "Shisheido") makes for an incentive to climb aboard or go away, depending on the listener's interest (or resistance) to 1970s nostalgia. Scoffing the fan, the album closes with the long (11 minutes) "Happy Audio," a typical example of Fennesz's magic experimental ambient touch. Endless Summer is brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed, but the listener comes out of it with mixed feelings and many questions left unanswered. Isn't that the sign of important art? ~ François Couture

Musical Theatre - Released June 25, 2012 | ASH INTERNATIONAL

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Experimental - Released April 28, 2014 | Editions Mego

Viennese electro-acoustic artist Christian Fennesz managed to set an incredibly high bar for himself with his landmark 2001 album, Endless Summer. Crafted from processed guitar and a colorful palette of glitchy electronics, the album recast the sun-kissed chamber pop introspection of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds in a hazy blanket of digital fuzz and warped laptop reconstructions. In the decade that followed, Fennesz offered up endless collaborations but only two proper solo albums. Released in 2004, Venice wandered through rainy alleyways of crackling vocal samples and watery electronics, while 2008's Black Sea loomed with slowly unfolding pieces that interlocked nicely as a suite-like whole. Neither of these albums, nor any of the various one-off tracks, remixes, or collaborative efforts, have come quite as close to the masterful synthesis of pop and electronics of Endless Summer as does Bécs, Fennesz's sixth official solo album and one of his brightest statements. Recorded some 13 years after what many consider his masterpiece, it's not so much a follow-up as it is a new chapter that finds the artist in a similar headspace as the incredibly focused time that informed some of his best work. Fennesz has always used his signature guitar sound as the foundation for songs, stretching its tones into unimaginable shapes of beauty and dissonance. Emotionally evocative pieces like "Static Kings" and the sprawling "Liminality" follow this method, but see Fennesz's bleary-eyed chords joined by chirping modular synthesizers and live drums rendered into a state of constant shattering by electronic processing. Another of his signature moves is the use of layers of woolly fuzz, piling on top of each other until their menacing fever-like tones go from grating to comforting. Songs like "The Liar" and the piano-based title track drown in just this type of distortion, filling every spare corner with all-consuming noise until the songs are distilled to the point where their melodic cores are the only recognizable elements. Fennesz reaches brilliant heights with Bécs, and continues a legacy of his preternatural voice in both instrumental composition and electronic texture. The loving layers of static, submerged guitar progressions, and effortless meshes of naturalistic themes and glitchy processing all play into a language of sound distinct to Fennesz and reaching some of their clearest articulations here. ~ Fred Thomas

Experimental - Released October 1, 2007 | Editions Mego

As bizarre as it was, Fennesz's previous release for Mego -- Instrument EP -- is made positively accessible by this, his full-length debut. Skipping across droning, machinic ambient, minimal experimental techno, and abstract, beat-oriented electronica, the album draws copiously from compositional styles the artist clearly (and thankfully) has nothing but a passing interest in. Points of reference might include, by turns, Main, Porter Ricks, Nonplace Urban Field, and Throbbing Gristle, but like other Mego artists such as General Magic and Farmers Manual, Fennesz manages to sustain a consistent assault on stylistic convention while remaining at the same time positively listenable and anything but pretentious. Although the guitar seems less present than on Instrument EP, its appearance on "Blok M" and "Fa," among others, makes for some singularly beautiful moments. The album's standout closer, "Aus," is a stunning example of post-genre complexity made more notable by how strangely catchy it is. ~ Sean Cooper

Electronic/Dance - Released May 11, 2018 | Touch

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Dance - Released April 26, 2004 | Touch


Dance - Released December 8, 2008 | Touch

"BLACK SEA is deeper and even more sedentary than 2004's ax-bient classic 'Venice,' but still just as engaging....A slow revealer, BLACK SEA is a treasure chest for dreamers and droners to get truly lost in."

Experimental - Released July 26, 2010 | Type

The continuing project of On -- where each new release by the duo of Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess becomes a remix collaboration with another artist -- reaches another peak with the release of Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not. There's a simple but key reason -- this time around, the collaborator is Fennesz, the noted Austrian guitarist/soundscape creator who thrives in partnerships as much as he does on his own. Hearing the high, persistent feedback scrawl on the opening "The Inconsolable Polymath" almost marks his participation from the start, but the best partnerships find ways to meet in the middle; the floating drones and calm piano suggest, however subtly, something different from the invited guest. From there the album progresses with five tracks of varying length, with a crumbling wash of sonics set against a calm, sudden precision that could come from any of the participants -- the arcing whine of something almost mechanistic on "Blank Space," the metronymic yet still almost strangely unstable cymbal hits on "A Tardy Admission That the Crisis is Serious." The title track's use of percussion starting almost five minutes in after an extended drone/loop opening is a nice enough touch of drama, but even more appealing when it makes the music sound like a murkier, late Talk Talk instrumental. Meanwhile, the concluding "The Sound of White" might be the most opaque of the five tracks -- less obviously a collaboration between two different acts than something else again, a flowing movement over 20 minutes of a bright loop, implied rhythms without beats, and the occasional chime. ~ Ned Raggett

Dance - Released October 28, 2002 | Touch

The title of this collection and the beautiful photographs chosen by Jon Wozencroft for the packaging hint at something bucolic and down to earth, framing this electronic and rather abstract music in a paradoxical setting. After all, art is often born out of contrasts. Field Recordings 1995-2002 culls rare EPs and compilation tracks by one of experimental electronica's prominent names, Fennesz. Served like a platter of hors d'oeuvres to new fans waiting for a follow-up to Endless Summer, it has its highs and lows. Comp contributions often become occasions to try something different. Fennesz makes no exception. Not quite as defined as his album cuts, the tracks here chronicle the sidesteps that led him from Hotel Paral.lel to Endless Summer. The album opens with "Good Man," a new piece completed for this collection. Very dense and made of alternating sections of noise-drenched melodies, quiet drones, and harsh noise, it will raise anyone's hopes as to the quality of his next album. This is followed by the entirety of his EP Instrument, first released on 12" vinyl in the early days of the label Mego. Then listeners find a number of tracks that appeared on compilations released by Ash International and Mille Plateaux, remixes for Ekkehard Ehlers and Stephan Mathieu, plus two cuts from the Blue Moon soundtrack -- many of these are labeled "new version" to attract early fans, but in some cases the differences remain very subtle. "Good Man," "Surf," the Instrument material, and the polluted guitar ballad "Codeine" provide a handful of highlights that make this disc worthwhile, but newcomers should start with Fennesz's "real" albums. ~ François Couture

Electronic/Dance - Released July 25, 2011 | Touch

Fennesz's first full solo work since Black Sea is a short, almost tentative release, feeling as if it's a dipping of toes into the water to see what might be next. "Liminal" begins Seven Stars on one of the most polite and outright shoegazey fronts he's done yet, feeling less like careful electronic fusion than open-ended strum and exploration. It's gorgeous if a little unexpected, not quite as distinct as some of his other work in the end, though the final minute of the song takes things in an even woozier and louder direction. "July" takes a much more unsettled path from the start, feedback clash complemented slowly by growling tones and a deep-sounding background that feels like a cave with a none-too-friendly inhabitant. "Shift" is just that, turning toward slow layers of tones feeling more like a hushed organ part than any kind of noise attack, as near complete a drift drawing on Fennesz's now standard approaches as can be expected; if again not quite surprising, it's certainly enveloping. The title track concludes the EP on the gentlest and most unexpected note yet, thanks to Steven Hess' brushed drumbeats, as well as flecks of acoustic guitar sounding like something from Victorialand Cocteau Twins transformed into '90s new age meditations. It's an unexpected turn on a slightly uneven EP, but all the more striking for how it wraps it up on a promising sign. ~ Ned Raggett

Ambient - Released January 29, 2016 | Touch

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Electronic/Dance - Released October 20, 2008 | Touch


Dance - Released November 6, 2006 | Editions Mego


Classical - Released December 10, 2007 | Touch


Miscellaneous - Released October 1, 2012 | Editions Mego


Dance - Released November 29, 1999 | Touch


Dance - Released October 9, 2000 | Touch