By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56'37"/
Minus Sixteen Degrees 51'08"
The Magic Sound of Fenno'berg
THERE'S A THESIS to be written on the shared sociocultural factors that lead both middle-European electronic composers and their Middle American postrock kin to attempt to milk melodrama from irony. Maybe this affinity has something to do with the fact that each genre's metropolitan center occupies a similar spot on the nexus of labor and leisure. After all, Chicago is a union town, Berlin has a four-day workweek, and each has pressed musicians from diverse global crannies into paying their dues.
Lacking such an academic dissertation, we'll just have to settle for the aesthetic rewards that transnational collaborations like the Fenno'bergdisc offer up. A meeting between Chicago post-rock avatar Jim O'Rourke and a pair of Austrians (math-rock/ambient guitarist Christian Fennesz and electro-minimalist Peter Rehberg), Fenno'bergis the sound of three men sitting at a table pecking at computers that chomp and flush what could pretty much be called the Entire History of Recorded Music. As the trio finds the anger in MOR samples and the beauty in sine-length manipulation, they manage to show up much modern tuneage, from film soundtracks to alt-rock. And yet they find the path to real emotion within that pathos.
For soundscapes without subtext, there's the Fennesz solo disc. Packaged in what appears to be an elaborate picture postcard of Teutonic milking country, the music scurries between the skitter of Oval, the squelch of Pansonic, and the drugged-out chest-beating of My Bloody Valentine. Most of the sounds here originate from beat-free laptop orchestrations that scrape away all musical details. Still, this is a pretty sensuous disc, particularly for music seemingly created largely to bore the girlfriends of smug audiophiles.
These discs represent different sides of the same musical coin. The orchestrator Fennesz secretly desires to transform a single note into a symphony. The collage artist O'Rourke hopes, conversely, to find the single note that ties together all sound.