Talk about "highly anticipated": fans of Fennesz had three years to marvel in his Endless Summer CD. Meanwhile, the album became a hit in left-field electronica, exerted a major influence on countless sound-alikes, and even allowed Fennesz to break -- however slightly -- into the mainstream. Is Venice better than Endless Summer? No, but the fact that it doesn't disappoint, despite the expectations generated by this bona fide follow-up, is by itself a commanding feat. The reason why Venice doesn't top its predecessor is because it follows a rather similar recipe and therefore lacks the effect of surprise. Otherwise, it is a very fine release, highly enjoyable yet genre-pushing, and unmistakably Fennesz from beginning to end. The melodies that haunted Endless Summer's washes of granulated noise are still present, although in a more subtle form. Except for one standout exception, you won't be whistling these tunes in the shower, as the melodic component is more evanescent, but the impression of listening to "songs" remains strong. In that respect, highlights include the delicate opener "Rivers of Sand" and "The Point of It All." The album features two extra contributors. One of them was predictable; after all, Fennesz had appeared in duet with David Sylvian on the latter's 2003 solo CD, Blemish. They do it again in "Transit," a beautiful song about departures that makes one think the pair should definitely work on a full-scale collaborative project (it could be Sylvian's best collaboration since the Sylvian/Fripp albums). The second guest is Viennese guitarist Burkhard Stangl, a maverick improviser and puzzling experimentalist. His appearance on two tracks, "Laguna" and "Circassian" (the latter another highlight) follows up on Fennesz's 2002 collaboration with his improv quartet, Polwechsel. These two pieces (on which Fennesz joins on guitar) have a light post-folk flavor. The album is marvelously sequenced, with short soundscapes articulating mood shifts. The only weak point is found in the closing track, "The Stone of Impermanence," significantly harsher in texture and sound than what came before, which makes for an uncomfortable finale -- the piece would have worked better at midpoint, tempered by gentler neighbors. Still, Venice is another success and every bit as delightful as its predecessor. The presence of David Sylvian will make it easier for new fans to jump in.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture