Fennesz | Black Sea
Most Likely To: soundtrack the next time-lapse film you make about a cat decomposing in a suburban gutter.
Christian Fennesz’ album Black Sea is like a study in decay. With his legion of guitars, synthesizers and computer whiz-dings, he has crafted the musical equivalent of an elemental half-life, en exponential decay process by which a substance diminishes by half given a fixed amount of time. Fennesz gives us musical forms in diminishing returns, songs that roil in amorphous static and half remembered melodies.
The songs on the album begin almost by accident, tweeting loops shaking loose from the void and tumbling down into guitar lines that float up through the noise, ghostly, from their perches in a collective musical memory. The musical forms drop away sometimes as quickly as they are introduced, like hearing someone whistling from far away, carried off on the slightest breeze. Melody lines on the synthesizer echo softly in brief refrains, like how the riff of an old song you used to love will repeat itself in silvery repetitive bursts across your hippocampus. Fennesz has tapped into the ability to record a song the way someone might casually remember it.
Black Sea is gorgeously constructed; the songs are erected with a seemingly psychological transparency, like you are poking around in the guts of each one, listening to the space between notes, listening for the instant that melodic structure is conjured from the mess and just as eagerly awaiting its collapse.
For all of its shimmering sonic landscapes, Black Sea does fail in creating any sort of emotional resonance. The songs rise and fall gloriously, but as soon as you take your headphones off and shake the dreaminess from your eyes, the album does not linger. The music is great given the proper context (prone with headphones in a dark room), but seems stilted and difficult anywhere else. This is not an album you would hear outside of any situation that you entered into willingly and that was not specifically designed to be soporific and introspective. Having said that, those willing to provide themselves the time and the space to really take in this album will be rewarded with rich dividends.