Fennesz: Live In Japan

While Fennesz fans anxiously await Venice, his follow-up to the justly heralded Endless Summer, they can tide themselves over with this majestic recording of a February 9, 2003 performance at Shibuya Nest in Tokyo. While apparently some listeners have described it as “the greatest laptop live show in music history,” music of this potency and textural richness hardly requires such hyperbole to argue in its favour. It begins with a churning, industrial haze of electronics and continues for forty-three raw minutes in a stream-like fashion. While snippets of Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56' 37" Minus Sixteen Degrees 51' 08", Endless Summer, and “Codeine” (Fennesz's remix of the Ekkehard Ehlers and Stephan Mathieu track from the duo's superb Heroin) do surface, most appear briefly before being sucked back into the volcanic brew Fennesz concocts. Recognizable elements like the melancholy guitar strummings and vibes of Endless Summer and the organ of “Codeine” are shredded by an astonishing and relentless array of processing treatments. Yet even when such effects are at their most extreme, Fennesz's unique sensibility ensures that melodic traces will be heard straining towards the surface. At the very moment when the sound threatens to become wholly engulfed by static and noise, the familiar strumming of an acoustic guitar breaks through to provide a stabilizing reference. Presumably he used a predetermined 'set list' to guide himself through the performance, but the feel is definitely organic with ideas unfolding in a natural manner. In conjuring this stunning set, Fennesz maintains a level of invention and intensity from beginning to end that is both exhausting and thrilling. The seeming ease with which he shapes these transitions into a cohesive, grand design is masterful. Conspicuous by its singularity is the brief interlude of silence near the end, after which Fennesz ends this remarkable set with the gorgeous “Caecilia.”

August 2003