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Fennesz — Bécs

Fennesz — Bécs

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Made in Austria / Gatefold / 2014 / Viennese electro-acoustic artist Christian Fennesz managed to set an incredibly high bar for himself with his landmark 2001 album, Endless Summer. Crafted from processed guitar and a colorful palette of glitchy electronics, the album recast the sun-kissed chamber pop introspection of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds in a hazy blanket of digital fuzz and warped laptop reconstructions. In the decade that followed, Fennesz offered up endless collaborations but only two proper solo albums. Released in 2004, Venice wandered through rainy alleyways of crackling vocal samples and watery electronics, while 2008's Black Sea loomed with slowly unfolding pieces that interlocked nicely as a suite-like whole. Neither of these albums, nor any of the various one-off tracks, remixes, or collaborative efforts, have come quite as close to the masterful synthesis of pop and electronics of Endless Summer as does Bécs, Fennesz's sixth official solo album and one of his brightest statements. Recorded some 13 years after what many consider his masterpiece, it's not so much a follow-up as it is a new chapter that finds the artist in a similar headspace as the incredibly focused time that informed some of his best work. Fennesz has always used his signature guitar sound as the foundation for songs, stretching its tones into unimaginable shapes of beauty and dissonance. Emotionally evocative pieces like "Static Kings" and the sprawling "Liminality" follow this method, but see Fennesz's bleary-eyed chords joined by chirping modular synthesizers and live drums rendered into a state of constant shattering by electronic processing. Another of his signature moves is the use of layers of woolly fuzz, piling on top of each other until their menacing fever-like tones go from grating to comforting. Songs like "The Liar" and the piano-based title track drown in just this type of distortion, filling every spare corner with all-consuming noise until the songs are distilled to the point where their melodic cores are the only recognizable elements. Fennesz reaches brilliant heights with Bécs, and continues a legacy of his preternatural voice in both instrumental composition and electronic texture. The loving layers of static, submerged guitar progressions, and effortless meshes of naturalistic themes and glitchy processing all play into a language of sound distinct to Fennesz and reaching some of their clearest articulations here.

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