Fennesz’s latest offering, “Bécs,” manages to find a way to balance electronic and acoustic compositional techniques where neither approach seems to take precedence over the other. From start to finish each track explores atmospheres that range from pure, amorphous clouds of sound that ebb and swell turning over and fold into themselves to allow various shadings of their harmonic palette become exposed and explored; to more traditionally beat oriented tracks that bring bright acoustic guitar sounds into the mix.
While “Pallas Athene” explores the former–the more amorphous sound-world–a track like “Bécs” places a more standard harmonic rhythm and progression into a structural role. The opening of that track investigates the overtones of a single attacked string, but before long the sound is granulated, it begins to feed back on itself, and a hazy cloud forms all around it until the very sound that opened the work sinks to the background. Though that string attack remains audible, one must work a little harder at times to really hear it and it becomes more a backbone than anything, the exact source of every sound that surrounds it. So, is it really that much in the background after all?
And these timbral, structural considerations aren’t the only way to look at this album. The emotive quality of something like the titular track should not be overlooked. The suspended melody and delicate harmonic underpinning, though shrouded in swirling granulation, is no less effective. When that cloud of overdriven haziness dissipates suddenly, though gently, at the end of the piece, one begins to truly feel the full weight of the track. That ending, the stripping away of everything, brings about a pretty satisfying resolution.
I would have to say that the standout track to me is “Liminality.” The 10 minute track moves from ambience to solo guitar, and back to electronics that sound similar to one of Tim Hecker’s works on “Ravedeath 1979.” The guitar line’s suspended dissonances ring out, and their resolutions are held back as far in the beat as possible, wringing as much tension out of each pitch as they can bear.
Overall, the album is successful at taking a fairly unique approach to electronic music, eschewing pure laptop sounds for a mix of synthesis and acoustics. Fennesz’s style of electro-acoustic music is at once engaging and exciting, intriguing and emotive, and simply put needs to be heard.