on 23 August 2007
A collaboration between Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto makes very good sense on paper and thankfully it works on CD too. The former is one of the leading "Glitch" artists producing exquisitely beautiful laptop music (just to throw in two tags that either tell you exactly what to expect or leave you utterly clueless), in his case using a standard electric guitar in the main as the base ingredient. The latter is the classically trained pianist, former leader of the Japanese Beatles (or Kraftwerk depending on whether you are talking about sales or style) the Yellow Magic Orchestra, Oscar winning soundtrack composer, World music guru oh and a bit of acting too.
This album is different to other Fennesz albums in that Sakamoto's beautiful piano music is to the fore on all tracks. If you follow Sakamoto's work and have heard or own "BTTB" then you know what to expect. This also makes the album easier for non-Glitch, non-laptop aficionados to appreciate. However, Fennesz devotees should not worry because his distinctive style is there in every track, taking the solo piano technique and adding that superb atmospheric effect, taking it into the ionosphere.
It would be wrong to compare this album to Fennesz last major outing, the wonderful "Venice" with the hauntingly beautiful "Transit" featuring David Sylvian's vocals and sounding like a 21st century "Ghosts" as it really is a collaboration between these two heavyweights. A union of two worlds not a clash of cultures, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
If you want to know what Debussey in a thunder storm sounds like then this is the closest you are likely to come.
on 30 June 2008
An album full of strange, quietly unsettling music that contains echoes of many other artists -- some classical, some popular -- but which also has a very distinctive identity reflecting the particular styles of the two artists involved. If you like the scratchy textures of 'glitch', then of course you will like this; Fennesz, after all, is one of the foremost practitioners of that style. If, however, like me, you tend to look more for melodic appeal, then I'm sure you will enjoy the way Sakamoto sprinkles fragments of piano melody on top of the smoky dust left by Fennesz, some of which fragments are cleverly 'borrowed' from elsewhere -- for example, the ghostly referencing of Satie's Gymnopedie on 'Kuni' (track 5). Just a shard or two of that familiar tune emerging from the ashes for a moment or two, before disappearing again almost immediately, leaving you wondering whether exactly you heard it at all or if it was just a dream.
It does, indeed, as somebody else observed in an earlier review on this page, sound rather like Debussy in a thunderstorm (or Satie in a sandstorm, perhaps, if you prefer). Ambient music of the highest quality, then, and a very productive mingling of the talents of two artists with contrasting styles. It is also, I think, a very good reply to those who think of ambient music as soulless background wallpaper that doesn't engage the emotions or the intellect. This is music that can seep into your soul very easily, if you're prepared to allow it.