Fennesz

Endless Summer

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With a title and cover artwork so obviously referring to the Beach Boys, one had to anticipate that this 2001 full-length CD by Fennesz would be more melodious than usual. It is, but you'll only get as close to surf music as the imagination of an experimental electronica artist from Vienna, Austria, will allow you to -- and that's still quite far. Fennesz puts the emphasis on sunny melodies and a somewhat lighter atmosphere, but drowns them in glitch textures. The result strikes and disconcerts. Easy solutions do not fill this man's cup of tea. The melodies are never played throughout, but dismembered, notes assigned to different instruments or electronically cut up and reassembled. The vibraphone in "Caecilia" has been tripled, some notes appear upfront, parts of the main theme happen in the background. Another example: The long notes making up the main line in "Before I Leave" are played on a organ, but the sound is constantly interrupted by clicks, producing an analog/digital effect of the weirdest kind. The pieces themselves are bipolar: while the melody remains stuck in its groove, repeating endlessly in post-rock fashion, the textures evolve beautifully. Yet, the listener is left with a deceiving impression of stagnation. The ultra kitsch flavor of some cuts (like "Shisheido") makes for an incentive to climb aboard or go away, depending on the listener's interest (or resistance) to 1970s nostalgia. Scoffing the fan, the album closes with the long (11 minutes) "Happy Audio," a typical example of Fennesz's magic experimental ambient touch. Endless Summer is brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed, but the listener comes out of it with mixed feelings and many questions left unanswered. Isn't that the sign of important art?

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