By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
Field Recordings 1995:2002
Call it the Prince-Alone-in-His-Studio Syndrome: Electronic musicians, when confronted with a panel of shiny knobs, tend to spend more time twiddling with them than using them to actually express something. Sure, it takes a clever studio engineer to wire a mixer together so that it amplifies its own feedback into a bevy of screeches and hums. But, as Toshimaru Nakamura proved with his classic No-Input Mixing Board, it takes a true artist to sculpt said screeches into a gorgeous wash of primordial pulsations.
Which explains why Austrian laptop mangler Christian Fennesz is such a precious commodity. Though his basic songwriting method (upsetting pop structures with woozy computer processing) has remained essentially unchanged over the course of three albums and countless collaborations, his music's emotional returns continue to build, culminating in the stunning melancholia of last year's Endless Summer and the surprisingly adroit tonal studies of his recent FatCat 12-inch. On his newest CD, which collects his earliest songs alongside later film scores and compilation contributions, Fennesz assembles a portrait of the artist as a young man that's also a blistering work of art in itself.
Anyone who came to Fennesz's music through the Beach Boys-refracted lens of his Endless Summer is in for a surprise. In place of that album's meticulously fractured xylophones and synthesizers is a refreshingly epic take on My Bloody Valentine's wall-of-sound blast-off. The four songs collected here from Fennesz's long out-of-print 1995 EP Instrument layer dense, almost industrial guitars over hectic drumbeats, all to dizzying effect. But fans of Fennesz's later work can rest assured: The more recent selections from Field Recordings veer from glitched-out academic pop to minimal sound design to the almost bombastic film score for Andrea Maria Dusl's fairytale love story Blue Moon.
Within these tracks is the blueprint for Fennesz's fragile, blunted lyricism. For instance, "Good Man," an unreleased song of unspecified age, is like a collision between academic sound design and tremulous pop. With a bed of soft pops and fizzes that gradually give way to waves of processed synthesizer and hissing guitars, the song shows its Iannis Xenakis-inspired experimentalism. And yet it still has an emotional tenor that could bring lesser men--like me--to tears.
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