Fennesz: Seven Stars

Recorded and mixed in Vienna in January 2011 over a three-week period, Seven Stars presents eighteen minutes of new music from Christian Fennesz, his first solo release, in fact, since 2008's Black Sea (currently available as a digital download and ten-inch vinyl release, Seven Stars will also appear in a CD format in September). On the tracks, he plays acoustic and electric guitars, bass, synths, and computers, and is joined by drummer Steven Hess on one of the four pieces.

The graceful opener “Liminal” oozes a languourous, drifting feel in its slow-mo layering of guitar shadings, with rough-edged shards and intrusive stabs disrupting the otherwise peaceful ambiance. “July” starts out as a considerably more severe and industrial-toned exercise in moodsculpting, with Fennesz liberally altering his guitar sounds via computer treatments. Gradually low-leven churn and brittle textures give way to a gentler see-saw of chords, before the piece expires in a puff of smoke. On the flip side, “Shift” emerges in a cloud of organ dust that swells into an ever-spreading drone, his signature guitar playing either absent or camouflaged via computer manipulations. Similar in style and tone to “Liminal,” the closing title track adds a new wrinkle to Fennesz's music by including Hess's drum playing, which provides unobtrusive support for the guitarist's melancholy strums and ruminations.

Eighteen minutes isn't a whole lot of music, but the guitarist's unmistakable artistry is clearly evident throughout. Fennesz devotees won't have to wait terribly long for more new material either, as his third collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Flumina, is scheduled to appear this summer too. While Seven Stars is not the full-length solo recording I'd most like to have seen Fennesz release, it'll certainly do for now.

September 2011