Review Summary: Somber soundscapes and lush melodies: a vivid Fennesz experience.
In the past six years, Austrian artist Christian Fennesz has focused mostly on soundtracks, remixes and several collaborations that kept his fans interested in his output yet a solo full length was nowhere in sight. The sample collection, Szampler
and the Seven Stars
EP kept teasing until the man finally announced the release of his latest work, Bécs
. Besides bearing the Hungarian name for Vienna, the record also marked the return to his former record label Mego, through which he released the beautiful classic Endless Summer
was indeed created with the aforementioned album in mind, the overall output is slightly different this time. There's less glitch and more straightforward ambient soundscaping, while the guitars are more often distorted and sunk in waves of effects and samples. Even so, the prominent beauty that lies underneath the musical dirt makes for an easier listen much like Venice
is. Centerpieces, 'Liminality' and 'Pallas Athene' are two gorgeous examples of this gentle approach within rough edges. The former was expanded on the 'Liminal' track off Seven Stars
, adding a lovely guitar lead that gets gradually obscured and ultimately drowned in an ever increasing wall of noise. The melodic lines are still vaguely audible until the last couple of minutes, even if it sounds as if the whole world is coming to an end. The ambient 'Pallas Athene', on the other hand, goes quite the opposite way. The serene synth pads build a brittle foundation with different sonic layers comprised of faint guitar strums or restrained organ touches, occasionally finding their way to the surface.
Somber moments are found in 'The Liar' and 'Sav', however, even these aren't that abstruse as before, thus boasting more melodic progressions. They aren't composed entirely of industrial noise, feedback and field recordings like his early records do, instead featuring at least some atmospheric sounds and synths that break through the murk. 'Sav' comes off like a dreamy underwater soundtrack that could start from the diving point and goes deeper and deeper into the darkness. Once you finally return to the surface, the grim, background remnants give way to the warm and lovely closer, 'Paroles', where an acoustic guitar slowly plays its way to the end, rarely being interrupted by scratches or radio static. It feels like a perfect ending to such a vivid experience that Fennesz has perfected along the years.
Overall, is this album better than Endless Summer
? No, because it's sketched on its format. Still, it benefits from recipes found on Black Sea
too and that makes Bécs
such a nice and rather fresh listen. After a decade of heavy experimenting it was clear Fennesz couldn't leave it all aside to return to 2001. For the better of it, the album is made of lush tones but it also delves on the harsh side, with melancholic leads drenched in noise and distortion (the title cut is very representative of this). There aren't many artists who can deconstruct and rebuild such interesting tracks equally based on both disturbing and exquisite soundscapes, yet Fennesz continues his winning streak.