Review Summary: Endless Summer is an outstanding achievement in both its structural clarity and effortless mixing of abrasive noise and beautiful melodies.
If you’ve been digging into electronica and its various deviations a bit, there’s a fair chance you’ve (accidentally?) stumbled across some so-called noise music (Merzbow, etc.) and there’s an even fairer chance you deleted it from your cerebral (and possibly computer) hard drive as fast as possible, thinking “why the ***ing hell would anyone actually want to listen to this ***?”.
Austrian laptop musician and guitarist Christian Fennesz, who looks like Blixa Bargeld and is an active recording artist since 1995 is usually associated with this most far-out and demented form of industrial music. But like most of what’s in magazines or on t3h int4rw3bz, this labeling is utter bull***. While it might be true for his “earlier” stuff (and even that wasn’t just senseless distortion orgies), his recent recordings are more mellow than the majority of non-new-age (yikes!) electronic music currently floating around. 2001’s Endless Summer (the Beach Boys reference is fully intentional) was the beginning of all that.
Recorded and mixed using only “a guitar and a computer”, as Fennesz himself claims, Endless Summer is a wonderfully simple and sincere record. No complicated, geekish, hard-to-discern high concepts and theories, no hacksawed samples, no near-clinical abstractions. It is what it is, just layered, lazily-strummed guitars treated with often glitchy textures. But just because the structure is straightforward, doesn’t mean this is a simplistic piece of musical wallpaper made for homes of burnt-out businessmen. The arranging and composing job is very cleverly and carefully done and makes this an engrossing, almost gripping listen.
The relatively brief album opener, Made In Hong Kong is still a bit on the noisy side and feels like Fennesz is finally banishing his old industrial demons to be able to have a go at this new organic sound in all its richness. But the following title track already exemplifies his unique approach in an excellent fashion, ornamenting a simple (acoustic?) guitar chord progression with all kinds of reverb and delay effects, as well as other, more undermixed guitars and an arsenal of clicks and pops that would make Autechre proud. The great thing is, it never diminishes into an orgy of abrasion. All the noises seem very carefully placed and almost naturally inegrate into the summery, relaxing melodies. Yup, that’s right folks, Fennesz actually manages to unite the ununitable and make it seem like abrasive noise and poppy melodicism have always been the best friends in sound wonderland.
Individual tracks aren’t really that important in this fantastic sonic fusion, the album just kinda takes you away to some sunny, peaceful place by the sea and drops you off at the end, without ever changing moods. That being said, this is wonderful music to just sit back, fill your head with, and daydream to. Caecilia strikes me as particularly serene though and the somewhat-abrasive Before I Leave stands out as the “worst” track, but still not even close to “bad” enough to wake you up from your daydream.
Once the end of the almost dance-ish and slightly repetitive album closer Happy Audio puts your feet back on the harsh ground of reality, you’ll feel refreshed, inspired and ready to start something new (at least I do), which is exactly what a great “summer” album should do. Relax and envelop you at the same time.
So in that sense, have a nice summer (I wish it really WAS endless),