This CD was one of the albums of the year in The Wire (UK), 2003

Grooves (USA):

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.' [Ron Schepper]

The Wire (UK):

Running parallel to his excursions on the international improvisors' circuit, Christian Fennesz is also developing a career as laptop abstractionist of choice for more orthodox musicians. First he turns up applying texture to David Sylvian's recent return to form, Blemish. Next, he's set to work with Sparklehorse, arguably one of the more openminded outfits to have emerged from the alt Country boom in the mid-90s. Listening to Fennesz's latest solo release, Live In Japan, it's easy to hear why he has become so popular. Essentially, he offers all the puzzles and adventures of experimental music, but with a more assimilable grasp of melody - and a prominent role for the guitar - than most of his Viennese contemporaries. Live in Japan is a new piece, around 40 minutes long, recorded at the Shibuya Nest, Tokyo, this February. The sound, though, will be familiar to fans of Endless Summer, his studio album from 2001: great fields of soft-edged static; rearing symphonic drones; fragments of balmy guitar melody; unsteady digital editing that, at odds with many of his contemporaries, enhances the aesthetic qualities of his music rather than sabotaging them. The last, especially, is critical to Fennesz's appeal. Rather than succumbing to the multiple disruptive possibilities of Improv, Live In Japan evolves serenely from an opening burst of granular noise towards bucolic resolution. As a result, it often recalls a canny update of the bliss-out chapter of avant rock - My Bloody Valentine circa "To Here Knows When", AR Kane, perhaps even The Cocteau Twins - as much as it does to more obvious contemporaries like Pluramon. The result is quite lovely, and oddly radical in the way Fennesz manipulates pop and rock classicism with affection rather than selfconsciousness. Of course, he's not averse to pranks, as the two Fenn O'Berg CDs with Jim O'Rourke and Peter Rehberg testify. But when he revisits the watery vibes and smudged harmonies of "Caecilia" from Endless Summer - which is more reminiscent of The Beach Boys than his cover of their "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) - as an encore, what's most striking is the unashamed sentimentality which underpins it. The press release claims the show "has been praised by many as the greatest laptop live show in music history". That's a big call, but it's hard now to imagine one that could be more engaging. [John Mulvey]

Brainwashed (USA):

There are three kinds of human, as you call them. There are the poor doomed huddled masses who are yet to hear Fennesz, cowering in ignorance of the F-able; there are the enlightened who recognise him as a gloriously original experimental musician orbiting spheres way beyond mere progression; then there are total morons who probably waste their time listening to Britpap for lack of any clue whatsoever. The Austrian entity who has totally defined and redefined the interface between overgrown hedge cutting laptop mutation and pick'n'strum guitar beauty played for around forty-six minutes in Japan in the second month of this year. As the summer hit too hot to move, this CD fell into my lucky ol' player on the fifteenth and shimmered with utter perfection. If you didn't dig Endless Summer you are not worth a flick of my fag ash, and I don't even smoke. Chrissy F as his friends almost certainly never call him (I mean have you seen the guy? He looks so serious no one could call him Chrissy F, except maybe that utterly punchable dillweed who tries tosing for Blur) would doubtless not approve of such an irrelevant sentance with parentheses appearing in what is after all supposed to be some kind of description of his latest triumph. Hip Nips (the Jap chaps who clap quiet) hailed the master of cracklepops as the finest laptop performer they had witnessed. Reviewed, it seemed that this was the inevitable hype of the press release, but the disc is ample amplified evidence that this was one sweet shimmer burn of a unique event. Familiar fragments and refrains from Endless Summer are repositioned amongst ever more sundrenched light too bright. Fennesz has shifted his whole unmistakable shtick up a gear here, and made the magnificent Endless Summer seem like a mere rehearsal. If you are one of the enlightened then you know you need this. If you want to elevate beyond the bilge this is the disc to pick, yellow obi 'n' all. Bob Geldof has not been hailing this as the greatest thing he's heard since the Pistols, and Fennesz has never tried to feed the world. How can you tell them it's Xmas time when the summer is endless? - [Graeme Rowland]

City Pages (USA):

Like Falco, public health care, and Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio remake, the European phenomenon of the live PowerBook performance hasn't taken very well on American shores. Perhaps in these war-torn times, audiences need a little more shock-and-awe onstage than a guy sitting in front of a laptop can provide. Or maybe the new broken equipment craze that's propelling bands like Wolf Eyes and Nautical Almanac has made it uncool to buy pre-built, unmodified gear. Who knows? All I can say for sure is that at a recent house show here in Minneapolis, New York headliner Chuck Bettis spewed the kind of heart-thrilling noise Merzbow would kill for--and five minutes into his set, there was barely anyone left in the room to hear it. Sure, it was the crowd's loss. But perhaps those deserters afflicted with live-laptop bias should listen to Fennesz's new Live in Japan, which is the most compelling argument for them to shut the fuck up and listen that I've yet to hear. Austrian-based artist Christian Fennesz has already established himself as a preeminent computer musician, meticulously splicing shards of sound and processed guitar into the hazy future-pop of his classic Endless Summer. But where his albums are marked by precise editing and meticulously layered washes of fuzz, Live In Japan captures Fennesz in an improvisational mood, flitting through melodies with the kind of dynamic, turn-on-a-dime shifts that characterize the best that live improv can offer, laptop or otherwise. This shouldn't really be a surprise, since Fennesz regularly takes his PowerBook on the road for solo performances and collaborations with acts like Polwechsel and Fenn O'Berg. Even so, his performance here (presented as a single 43-minute track) is remarkable both in its scope and its consistency: Building up looped melodic phrases into a mass of sound, he then subsumes the whole thing with harsh screeches and crackles. Though the process may sound simple, it takes some skillful manipulation to simultaneously tug those heartstrings and poke them with tiny pins. Each of the several mini-narratives that arises within the set repeatedly pitches melody against noise, order against entropy. The grunting noise that opens the performance slowly unfolds into a pulsing wall of guitar. The hiss of reverberating tape-decayed synthesizers ply themselves against flickering sample-strobes at the 20-minute mark. And at my favorite point in the album, lush organ-drones and finger-picked guitar cap off the first part of the set, variously recalling Ry Cooder, My Bloody Valentine, and early Aphex Twin ambience. There's a marked playfulness throughout the set, as Fennesz drops in teaser samples from his early albums before twisting them into entirely new shapes: It's a knowing wink to the audience, followed by a stealthily concealed middle finger. Toward the last quarter of the record, Fennesz brings things to an emotional pitch, fades entirely to silence, and slowly works back into a splendidly noisy recap of Endless Summer's hauntingly catchy "Caecilia" before fading into quiet fields of pop and crackle. It's a heartbreaking ending that makes a damn good argument for the laptop's rightful place on center stage. And if Fennesz still can't convince the doubters, then it's probably time for the laser light show. [Nick Phillips]

Drowned in Sound (UK):

Christian Fennesz has been ploughing a lonely furrow for quite some time now. I say lonely only because of the stunning uniqueness of his work; while laptop musicians are now a dime a dozen, Fennesz' music transcends the usual pitfalls of such a genre, eschewing technical gimmickry in favour of a distinctly human approach to digital sound. When Fennesz uses a laptop, he does so not to show off his no doubt impressive collection of hardware, nor to create sounds that are deliberately, self-consciously, difficult or abrasive. Instead, he uses the micro-editing possibilites of his technology to expand the emotional pallette afforded him by more traditional instruments. On Fennesz' last original solo release, 2001's Endless Summer, he combined dense, manipulated digital static with calm washes of broken guitar and the occasional stab of warm, breathy organ; it's a fantastic record, certainly one of the best of the recent slew of laptop-based releases, and it achieves its greatness with nary a regular rhythm in sight. Live in Japan, however, goes some way to exceeding the emotionally sharp Endless Summer, protracting that records oscillations to a single, 45 minute ocean of sound. It's impossible to convey just how dense, how thick, this tangle of living, breathing sonic threads really is; in the space of a mere 20 seconds, Fennesz seems to reference Ambient, the radio music of John Cage, his contemporaries, while simultaneously creating a deep sense of space within the fizzes and the crackles. More than anything, Fennesz seems interested in the fallability of technology; his music explodes the innocuous digital sheen that micro-processing is often prone to, allowing error, disassembly, and the odd aural double take to permeate his set. It's quite easy, of course, to forget that this was all conjured during the space of one 45 minute live set in Toyko at the beginning of this year; not one electronic shudder has been tampered with since. It's an incredible achievement, a genuine plethora of sound, fury and fragility, by turns haunting and exultant. Fennesz seems determined to show us the ghost in the machine, and in the process he may well alter our perception of what "experimental" and "popular" music can be. Live In Japan is available by mail-order only at the Touch website.

Pitchfork (USA):

Rating: 8.5
David Berman tosses off an image in his poem "The New Idea" that hasbeen stuck in my head: "beauty blew a fuse." Pulled from the context of the poem, this line gets me thinking about things like Icarus flying too close to the sun or steel driving man John Henry pounding his way through that mountain to his death. It's a line about power, reach, and limitation. I read Berman's words and imagine an aesthetic experience as an electrical impulse carrying so much energy that somewhere, a breaker is tripped, natural limits are exceeded, destruction ensues, and the resulting jumble shows the opposing forces of, well, life. If I had to describe the music Christian Fennesz is making now with a single line, I could do worse than "the sound of beauty blowing a fuse." He started off with other goals. Early Fennesz wound a path through electronic abstraction and then rounded a curve around the time of the "Plays" single that led to his 2001 release Endless Summer. That record was a breakthrough that pointed the way toward a new fusion of guitar melody processed with the limitless textured noise made available via computer. Listening on the bus home from work today Endless Summer sounded even more pop than I remember; once again I was humming the title track, which is actually based on some pretty effective changes. I'm told that on his hard drive Fennesz has a version of his recording of "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" with Brian Wilson's vocals added on top; someone should write a vocal song to lay over "Endless Summer".

Live in Japan documents a single show recorded in February 2003, and it contains several chopped and processed segments of "Endless Summer", but Fennesz does a lot more here than just cue tracks. Bits of Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56' 37" Minus Sixteen Degrees 51' 08" stream past, there's a remix in there along with some scattered Endless Summer quotes, but Live in Japan is Fennesz in freeform mode, floating from one idea the next and finding the common core of energy in his varied approaches. You really could chart the emotional pitch of this set on a graph, as it begins in the middle, climbs to an early, intense peak, slopes down for some quiet contemplation before starting for another crest. The word "symphonic" comes to mind. Japanese label Headz is billing this particular performance as one of the greatest laptop shows of all time. I am not qualified to address that hyperbole, but I can say that Live in Japan is a very good Fennesz album regardless of how and where it was recorded.

Though the prettier aspects of Fennesz' sound appear with some regularity, Live in Japan generally leans toward noisier territory. It's a thick, heavy mix, and there always seem to be spikes of static bouncing against the floating organ chords and acoustic guitar picking. Fennesz has a way of teasing out unexpected sounds from his gear and creating unusual emotional effects. About 2/3 of the way through his set, he constructs a mountain of drone that sounds like the orchestral sweep of Sigur Ros fused with Merzbow, and then in the shadow of this monolith he inserts a plucked guitar processed to sound like a harpsichord, imparting an odd medieval quality that feels completely unplugged from time. That this towering and heroic mass slowly decays into the comparatively stark and desolate "Coedine," his remix of a track by Ekkehard Ehlers and Stephen Mathieu, is a testament to Fennesz' emotional reach. He wisely concludes his set on this high note and breaks for a moment before plugging back in and working noisier bits of "Endless Summer" back into an encore. Fennesz' approach with previous records has been to explore a small number of discrete sound ideas in each track and then assemble the varied results into an album. A lot of the fun of Live in Japan comes from hearing how he moves from one sequence into something completely different (surely time spent improvising as part of Fenn'o'berg was an influence here.) Live in Japan is mastered as one 45-minute track, and though I've never been crazy about this kind of listener coercion (first foisted upon the world with Prince's Lovesexy), it has forced me to
consider Fennesz' set as a whole. This record is a finely rendered laptop suite by a master of dynamics and pacing. There are (too?) many people making similar music on their laptops at this moment, but very few are as accomplished as Christian Fennesz. [Mark Richardson]

VITAL (The Netherlands):

Let's hope that Christian Fennesz doesn't need an introduction. Many of his works are landmarks in the world of laptopmusic, maybe with 'Endless Summer' being the biggest one of them all. Fennesz is also a person who plays live a lot and is among the best ones to improvise freely on his laptop. A live solo album was to be expected. Here it is. It was recorded in Japan, in February of this year and released on the Headz label (run by the same guy that did Meme some years ago, let's hope this label is somewhat better organised), of course with permission of Touch, the UK label to which Fennesz is exclusively signed to. The press blurb raves about the best laptop concert ever given. Maybe that is a bit too much, but I must agree we are dealing with not just a very good recording, but also with some great music. Guitar plays a major part in these recordings, with long passages of untreated guitar playing, to which Fennesz adds little bits of his special layerings of processed guitars. Fennesz has his own style of playing (and I mean laptop here), which is not really about cracks and clicks, but rather psychedelic patterns of sounds, fields, more or less aggressive drones, which are real-time filtered and collaged together. In the encore we even are offered a xylophone and Fennesz comes close to the Beach Boys here. Maybe not the best laptop CD ever made, but certainly for a live CD, one of the best around. (FdW)

Matiere Brut (France):

Christian Fennesz est de retour avec cette fois, non pas un album mais l'enregistrement complet d'un concert donné le 9 février 2003 à Shibuya Nest dans la ville de Tokyo. Fennesz a une rare aisance à improviser en live ce qui légitime grandement la sortie de ce disque, très emprunt de son album studio Endless Summer sorti en 2001 sur le label Mego. Les guitares "non ou peu traîtées", qui ne cachent pas leurs racines pop, jouent un rôle majeur ici, se reposant sur les fines couches superposées de drones et de clics digitaux manipulés en temps réels. Le tout est comme d'habitude finement mis en place, l'évolution du morceau faisant preuve d'une grande sensibilité. Bref, cet enregistement est une brillante démonstration des possibilités de la "musique laptop" en live. [Yann Hascoet]

Geiger (Denmark):

Christian Fennesz had his big artistic breakthrough in 2001 with the album Endless Summer. The release, that with an extreme fine touch for combining cut-up electronic elements, noise and accoustics, that set new standards for how laptop could be utilized, have since almost obtained something near classical status. Since the release, Fennesz has among other things taken advantage of his popularity, working with an amount of musicians within amost all genres. As from his involvement in the improv trio Fenn O'Berg, with Jim O'Rourke and Peter Rehberg, to AMM's Keith Rowe and at last participates Fennesz on David Sylvians latest album. According to the rumors, the latest cooperation should be with the american indie-group Sparklehorse. Lately Christian Fennesz has concentrated on finishing the follow-up for Endless Summer - Venice, as the album is called should, according to the rumors contain contributions from David Sylvian and is set for release later this year. Untill then, his growing audience would have to pass the time with this live-album, that has been recorded at his lates concert in Japan the 9th of February this year. In a way, the fact to release a live album, particulary with his already huge level of activity, can seem a bit like an idea, driven more from greediness than artistic will. On the other side, the music on the album actually shows something different. Live in Japan contains one long piece, that constantly supplies elements from pieces from earlier albums, as well as new material. In this way, space for a much more simple and less noisy version of the original accoustic-founded title piece from Endless Summer is given. In all, Fennesz has turned down the more aggressive part of his noise-layering, that has been replaced by as well noisy, but much more fluent background of tiny skips. The more fluent result is at the same time confirmed from that a much bigger part of the music are supported by either small accoustic melodies or wide blurry guitar-feedback layers. In spite that Fennesz few places gives away for small passages with white noise, is the atmosphere he creates on Live in Japan much more restrained and melodious than Endless Summer. The cd seems with it's greater simplicity immediately more easy-listening than one is used to - a fact that without doubt will give Fennesz even more listeners - but without artistical compromises are taken. His music works simply just great under these premisses. Live in Japan works, despite the fact that it is a live album, not just a cd with live-recordings of what Fennesz earlier has produced. On the contrary part the music here gets a much more fluent and organic touch, and the well-known tracks here get new blood with more improvised sequences. That Fennesz with the more improvised pieces gives the music a more free and floating touch, the music adds an extra dimension in relation to his studio albums. Live in Japan is in that way a really well done live album, that on the face of it can be compared with his studio album. Wheter it can bear to stand as an independent work, or if this is just a station between two great studio albums, will Fennesz's next album without doubt reveal. Untill then, Live in Japan will undoubtly give us plenty of vitamins for many listenings. [Translated by Jacob Kirkegaard]

Disquiet (USA):

Laptop Concert in a Tokyo Nest: At a club called Shibuya Nest in Tokyo, Japan, on February 9 of 2003, Christian Fennesz, who records under his last name, took the stage with his laptop and let loose three quarters of an hour of sublimation and noise. The event is now available as full-length CD, Live in Japan, from the Tokyo-based label Headz. Aside from one fadeout half an hour in, it's a single continuous piece of music - continuous, but not homogenous by any means. What is beautiful in a familiar way about the recording (the occasional spurts of guitar, the squawking of birdsong, various lyrical samples) is often muffled by layers of static and fuzz. And that static and fuzz, in turn, is often shaped into its own musical material - repeated, for example, until what sounds like interference becomes a riff; the experience is a bit like seeing enormous and threatening clouds overhead come to resemble faces and forms. (Throughout the record, various segments might be recognized by anyone who has heard Fennesz's previous Endless Summer and Field Recordings albums.) His music thrives on its proximity to chaos, which is what makes it sublime. In contrast with cathartic work that openly embraces chaos, his has the detailed beauty of a carefully produced song, though that song may take several listens to hear, and the production several listens more to appreciate. Almost seven minutes into Live in Japan (the disc contains one single track, 43 minutes in length), after a flurry of fuzz has settled down, an acoustic guitar surfaces tentatively to provide a distinct signal. The digital hubbub subsides, soothed like a pack of digital beasts, rabid robot scouts lured to the campfire by the promise of a lullaby. The hisses and crunches that had previously defined the recording seem to coalesce around the guitar, echoing or otherwise complementing the melody that's being plucked and strummed. There's an extent to which these fluctuations and irritants are welcome, since some of the guitar playing sounds like second-rate singer-songwriter mush. Twenty minutes or so in, as an electric guitar emerges, again it's downright enticing how peculiar particulate sounds - bleeps like terse foghorns, scintillate like amplified fireflies - mesh with the guitar. On first listening, the noise can be little more than a distraction. But Fennesz has the unique ability to suggest an interplay between what is foreground and what is background, and how those two merge into one thick moment is what makes Live in Japan worth sitting through repeatedly. So heat up some sake, dim the lights, and sink in. [Marc Weidenbaum]

XLR8R (USA):



(Belgium):

Hij was lang aangekondigd maar het bleef maar wachten op de nieuwe van Christian Fennesz. Eerst zou die in het voorjaar uitkomen, dan in het najaar en dan was er niks. Naar het schijnt is hij nu al in omloop en te beluisteren ergens op het internet en naar het schijnt is hij heel goed. Weten wij veel! Om de leemte op te vullen, was er dan toch die zeer succesvolle samenwerking met ene David Sylvian. Deze Japanse liveregistratie was ook niet mis. ‘Live In Japan’ klonk een stuk agressiever en pittiger dan de studioalbums, die voorafgingen, maar steeds melodieus. Fennesz op zijn best dus! [Peter Wullen]




The New York Times (USA):

Fennesz is an Austrian producer and guitarist who makes sublime, stately compositions out of hovering melodies and white noise. This disc gathers rare and unreleased music from the last seven years; there's plenty of variety here, but the mood of blissful tranquillity remains, even when Fennesz is manipulating jagged shards of sound. "Menthol" juxtaposes a deep, glimmering drone with little eruptions of static on the surface. And on "Codeine," the disc's final track, the sonic cobwebs part slightly, and you can make out the soothing sound of a guitar being strummed. [Kelefa Sanneh]

The Sound Projector (UK):

A very useful and desirable comp of diverse cuts by the Fennery fellow, some of which are hard to come by - covering a five year period (astonishing to think he's been around that long, eh?) this includes the Instrument EP in its totality, plus Christian's contributions to other compilations, film soundtracks, along with remixes and what are laughingly called 'special projects', plus an unreleased cut from the vaults called 'Good Man'. This is a long-overdue goodie and a real treat for fans. Despite the title of course there are no 'field recordings' by way of environmental documents made in the middle of a countryside meadow, but the conceit reminds us that although all flesh is as grass, Fennesz's work has not aged and still comes up smelling as fresh as a bale of new-mown hay. Jon Wozencroft's cover images of a tractor, wooden fence and field of crops does nothing to contradict this notion. After the exceptionally powerful opener 'Good Man', we have all four tracks from Instrument, a belter of a disc which I think was Fennesz's first record and one of the earliest MEGO 12" releases. Wow. It exhibits CF's sharp genius right upfront - everything we have since associated with him seems to have been in place from the start. Here it is in the raw, wild buzzsaw drones and crazy distorted guitar noise - only back then he used a fairly conventional drum track, an element which has since been ditched in favour of his far more unrestrained approach, free-flowing fields of arrhythmic free noise.

Well, so much for the first five cuts. The rest of the comp can seem a bit disparate and throwaway after that strong opening. 'Betrieb' is a remix version by Ekkehard Ehlers for a Mille Plateaux release of that name, and Ehlers performs a small miracle by softening the overall range of frequencies and making Fennesz sound positively romantic. Maybe not a major miracle; there's always been this altruistic side to CF (the nice guy out of the meanie Mego gang) and Ehlers somehow cultivates it electronically. Both 'Stairs' and 'Odessa' are soundtracks plucked from a movie called Blue Moon, the former a short episode with a glutinous, cloying atmosphere, the latter a subterranean exploration suggesting pearl divers in the ocean. 'Codeine' finds acoustic guitar joining the laptoppery confections - very pleasing effect indeed - mingling with that powerful distressed surface which CF has made all his own, like musical notes being blown away in a strong wind. 'Ivend00' is punchier, with a controlled explosion of nasty static splinters and other micro-blip events, all combined in the mosaic style, instead of with the usual broad well-charged electronic paintbrush.

For some reason this is one of the strongest Fennesz sets ever released - maybe he works best with short, single tracks, where he can pour everything he's got into one intense burst of layered energy. Live recordings, and the much vaunted Endless Summer are great things in their way, but even they can seem slightly dissipated and washed-out in comparison to this. Hear Fennesz at his muscular best on Field Recordings! [Ed Pinsent]

City Pages (USA):

Call it the Prince-Alone-in-His-Studio Syndrome: Electronic musicians, when confronted with a panel of shiny knobs, tend to spend more time twiddling with them than using them to actually express something. Sure, it takes a clever studio engineer to wire a mixer together so that it amplifies its own feedback into a bevy of screeches and hums. But, as Toshimaru Nakamura proved with his classic No-Input Mixing Board, it takes a true artist to sculpt said screeches into a gorgeous wash of primordial pulsations. Which explains why Austrian laptop mangler Christian Fennesz is such a precious commodity. Though his basic songwriting method (upsetting pop structures with woozy computer processing) has remained essentially unchanged over the course of three albums and countless collaborations, his music's emotional returns continue to build, culminating in the stunning melancholia of last year's Endless Summer and the surprisingly adroit tonal studies of his recent FatCat 12-inch. On his newest CD, which collects his earliest songs alongside later film scores and compilation contributions, Fennesz assembles a portrait of the artist as a young man that's also a blistering work of art in itself. Anyone who came to Fennesz's music through the Beach Boys-refracted lens of his Endless Summer is in for a surprise. In place of that album's meticulously fractured xylophones and synthesizers is a refreshingly epic take on My Bloody Valentine's wall-of-sound blast-off. The four songs collected here from Fennesz's long out-of-print 1995 EP Instrument layer dense, almost industrial guitars over hectic drumbeats, all to dizzying effect. But fans of Fennesz's later work can rest assured: The more recent selections from Field Recordings veer from glitched-out academic pop to minimal sound design to the almost bombastic film score for Andrea Maria Dusl's fairytale love story Blue Moon. Within these tracks is the blueprint for Fennesz's fragile, blunted lyricism. For instance, "Good Man," an unreleased song of unspecified age, is like a collision between academic sound design and tremulous pop. With a bed of soft pops and fizzes that gradually give way to waves of processed synthesizer and hissing guitars, the song shows its Iannis Xenakis-inspired experimentalism. And yet it still has an emotional tenor that could bring lesser men - like me - to tears.

Echoes (Germany):

Ah, Fennesz. Mag ich sehr gern. Schön, dass der wieder mal was von sich hören lässt. “Field Recordings 1995:2002" also. Mhm. Feines Cover-Artwork von Jon Wozencroft. Compilation, so wie's aussieht. Outtakes, Raritäten, die vergriffene “Instrument"-EP, Stücke von dem Film “Blue Moon", na ja, mal anhören. Mhm, ja, sehr fein. Gewohnte Kost, nix wirklich Neues. Aber was er macht, das kann er halt, der Chris, na ich werd' mal die obligaten 7.5 Punkte vergeben und ein paar Zeil... Moment! Was war DAS? Muss mal lauter drehen. Der letzte Track. ’Codeine'. Noch mal. Das ist ja... unglaublich. Unbeschreiblich. Großartig. Und noch mal. Ich muss mich hinlegen. Die Augen schließen. Genießen. Diese wunderbaren Akkordwechsel auf der Akustikgitarre, die so schwerelos zwischen den Nebelfetzen aus dem Powerbook driften, ruhig, entspannt und mit unendlich viel Raum, um sich auszubreiten. Wahnsinn. Ein tiefer, dunkelblauer Bergsee, inmitten einer hellgrünen Wiese über der sich die Morgennebel lichten. Sieben Minuten, die endlos so weitergehen könnten. Ein unbeschreiblich schönes Stück Musik. Wahrscheinlich das beste, das Fennesz je aufgenommen hat. Die akustische und die elektronische Kontinentalplatte driften aufeinander zu. Kollidieren. In dem Gebirge, das sich an der Bruchstelle aufzutürmen beginnt, ganz am Gipfel, sitzt im kalten, klaren Nachthimmel Christian Fennesz und hat Gitarre und Powerbook auf seinem Schoß. Der nächste Frühling kommt doch bestimmt, oder? [Tobias Bolt] 10.0 Punkte

Boomkat (Web):

As the title suggests 'Field Recordings 1995-2002' is a compliation of works from the austrian wunderkid Christian Fennesz and in a similar way to Hrvatski's 'Swarm and Dither' it succeeds by digging deep to bring you tracks of serious quality and unbelieavble rarity. Kicking of with the previously unissued 'Good Man'. A full on sonic blast which manages not to mangle the senses but rather envelop you in blue warmth and hidden melodic rushes. Then for the first time on CD media is Mego 004, Christian's 'Instrument' 12" from 1995 in it's full glory. Four parts from 'Instrument 1-4', '1' gives a injection of muffled techno amongst the forward drones and clipped guitar feedback noises. '2' adopts intense feedback before the calm is brought. '3' chops the intensity up while micro beats dance to a motorik jungle tempo. '4' adopts Phillip Jeck traits, crackle loops driven by a hardrive rather than a belt driven Dansette motor. Incredibly moving and haunting. Other tracks come from his appearances on Mille Plateaux, Ash International, Keith Hrvatski's RKK label and Orthlorng Musork via his incredible rework of Stephan Mathieu & Ekkehard Ehkers' 'Heroin'. Twelve tracks from a modern day master. Incredible.

ei (USA):

Christian Fennesz's music is a lesson in human-computer interaction. Playing acousticmusic through digital filters and processors, and getting it to sound emotional and rich, is something many laptoppers have tried to accomplish with very little remarkable success. WShen Fennesz dropped Endless Summer on Mego in 2001, an alarming buzz surrounded his name. The soulful cyborg digitally crooned his way through a miniature binary symphony, Pet Sounds fore the Y2K. Since Endless Summer, Fennesz has been collaborating with some of the finest metalmen around, with little new solo material. Enter Field Recordings 1995:2002, a hulking slab of Fennesz history in the form of tracks distilled down to a lucky thirteen, including "Instrument," his debut twelve-inch for Mego, remixes for Ekkehard Ehlers and Stephan Mathieu, some soundtracks, compilation fodder like "Menthol," from Clicks & Cuts 2, Mille Plateaux's magnum glitch opus. By far the most inspirational material comes from the four parts of "Instrument." Densely layered and richly textured, we see Fennesz all over the canvas: dance beats, noise loops, acoustics and electronics in every hue and flavor, freely flying from the hands of the young visionary. In 21 minutes, Fennesz destroys these 'fields' with diamond-sharp audio bling, loosing captor and victim at the same time to startling ends. On "Betrieb" and "Codeine," Fennesz is at his electroacoustic best, collaging the already-collaged tracks of Ellers [sic] and Mathieu. The balance of the recordings are fact-finding missions about the power and presenhce of noise. The findings? Droning static, clipped squelch rhythms, bursts of dub bass and upside-down melodies. Collections like this tend to be solipsistic and lopsided, but Field Recordings avoids both, mostly because every single track is torn directly from the reified flesh of the mutant computermensch himself, and he only has beauty to share. [Michael Bernstein]

Phosphor (The Netherlands):

"Field Recordings" brings together a range of material Christian Fennesz has contributed to compilations, special projects and film soundtracks (for the movie "Blue Moon") between the years 1995 and 2002. Also, for the first time on CD, it includes his debut 12' for Mego, the awesome "Instrument", remastered, and a new track recorded specially for this release, "Good Man". This is his first release since "Invisible Architecture 02", together with Mika Vainio) and a prelude to his next studio album, which will be released on Touch in January 2003. After "Hotel Paral.lel" (Mego), "Plus 47 degrees..." (Touch) and "Endless summer" (Mego), Fennesz is mentioned in a lot in reviews as a reference. This album makes clear why. A rich variety of styles has been presented here. Every track is progressive, well-balanced and beautiful mastered. The uptempo, almost danceable "Instrument 1", the more industrial and repetitive "Instrument 2", "Betrieb", a beautiful sensitive floating remix from a song by Ekkehard Ehlers and the Click & Cuts track "Menthol" with lots of reworked digital sounds and crisp fragments are just a few examples presented on one of the best albums released lately...

Flux (UK):

Austrian Christian Fennesz has become someone to reckon with on the international processed-sound scene, his rise parallelling that of the label, Mego, with which he is most associated. He is good because his work still sounds like music while being challenging, gritty and abstract. He began as a guitarist, and most of the pieces here still sound like guitar playing, though with many extra layers of distortion and repetition. Hear this and most rock music instantly becomes pointless. [Andi Chapple]

Muzik (UK):

Fennesz's computer-processed guitar music is like listening to The Stooges or Velvet Underground with the words, tunes and rhythm track removed. Which seems perverse unless you remember it's the sound of that music - the fuzz, feedback, roar and drone - that makes it so exciting, not just Iggy's ereliner or Lou Reed's barbed observations. Some of the earlier tracks here are rooted in techno, but by the time you get to 'Codeine' - a cunningly titled remix of Stephan Mathieu & Ekkehard Ehlers' 'Heroin' - you realise this is the future of rock 'n' roll. [Tom Mugridge] - (There is also a photo and interview in the Dec 2002 edition)

Other Music (USA):

While so many indie bands have been toiling endlessly to follow up My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless" LP and fail, Fennesz manages to do it seemingly by accident. Unlike other Fennesz releases, "Field Recordings" has a grittiness that allows us to actually seem to hear the hand stroke upon the guitar strings, but still ends up being totally inhuman. Wave upon wave build, break down and surge beyond expectation repeatedly. A one man Glenn Branca orchestra (see track three: "Instrument 3"). Chords and notes fall through the cloud wall in unnatural yet beautiful patterns. Remember at the end of MBV's set when Kevin Shields planted his guitar upright in the middle of the stage while it fed back an unbelievable, countless amount of hypnotic sound waves through the audience? This album is full of moments like that except it's way more sculpted. "Guitar bands" take heed -- better than Van Halen. Necessary music. [SM] ("Field Recordings" collects material created between 1995 and 2002 for compilations, soundtracks and special projects. Included is "Instrument," Fennesz's first 12" for Mego, plus a brand new track.)

The Wire (UK):

Review can be read here

Stylus (USA):

overheard by tobias c. van Veen

dear Christian Fennesz, (a love letter):

letters of tenderness to your particle caresses, to your subconscious synaesthesia that runs fingers down my spine. I realised I could only write you a love letter when, after licking my words, and readying those wounds (love bites from that fateful night I took you on the subway!), I could not come without your consent. You held me ready, and in waiting, your throbbing sound coursing through my body... Because here, you play your Instrument (remember that long lost night on the Rhine? when we sung in Italian to a wall of water?). Yes, that ancient-1995!-Mego 004 12", so desperately desired by so many, you have finally given it over, percussive swellings, staccato over your moaning guitar, processed through erotic warmth of laptop circuitry... it was just a breath of what was to come, wasn't it?

dear Fennesz, it's all about feeling. About feeling you and you feeling me. About sound playing a layering of so many parts, so many melodies in that noise, deep in rubbing textures, that the sonic itself thins itself out into feedback, hitting the repetition that draws blood from skin. Here, and like Nietzsche told me late one night through the whispers of Derrida, my whole body becomes an ear.

I think I've heard you, Fennesz. But I still don't understand you. That picture I keep of you on the mantlepiece, with your sunglasses and open white shirt, that night after we painted the tones in multicolours and your acidic smile turned sour-you're dangerous, Fennesz, and I love you for it. Even when the ocean rears its ugly hydra-head behind your back, even then your lovely fingers will keep plucking. "Fennesz is a composer of electronic music for electric guitar," I read in the Saturday morning papers. But you're so much more than that. You're mysterious. And they got it all wrong, anyways (they always do). They said that everything prior to Endless Summer was just philosophical treatises, and that Endless Summer was the poetic exploration...but it's really just the opposite, isn't it? Philosophy, philo sophia, has always been about love. With Endless Summer you just had to spell it out a bit more clearly for those still not getting it-that love can also involve being a little tied up.

I dreamt about us swimming in that processed ocean of echoes and feedback chambers, of sound so thick and warm that you could breath it in. And we do breath it in, don't we? Sound is air-waves, afterall, and with your compressed carbon copy close to my mouth I suck in all you have to offer. It's all there in the "Surf," when the delay closes in, like when you tumble in the white and get pounded down into the wash, body broken and huddled in the foreign water and then, propelled up and out, towards air, breathing the roaring of the ocean: you're alive I am alive you yell...and out for the next wave "rock" "electronic" – such silly terms, aren't they, as I hold you close-as we all do, out here, grabbing your sonic body and ripping it to shreds, carne vale, throwing of the flesh . I'm sorry, Fennesz, that it had to come out this way. And you are too, at the end, when you left for Stephen and Ehlers to make beautiful Musork. But we'll always have our memories of those days spent 'in the field,' those wonderful recordings from the hotel, and that unforgettable summer lost in the surf...
yours,

VITAL (The Netherlands):

About 20 years ago, the CD arrived. I never thought that so many of the obscurities of my vinyl collection would be on CD. Since I move houses too often, I am so delighted to get rid of my vinyl and replace them by CDs. So a collection of Fennesz is most welcome, even when one can get rid of one piece of vinyl after that... This collection has the famous 'Instrument' 12" - the first statement of Fennesz as a guitarist working with samplers and computers (after his initial career as a rock guitarist) and what a great relaunch of a career. Besides this we find a whole bunch of compilation tracks that might be hard to get or which are deleted (and in a most curious case, also one that will be released next year, his remix for Mathieu/Ehlers 'Heroin' project). It's interesting to see Fennesz work evolve over the years. 'Instrument' is still a fairly 'normal' piece of music, with rhythm machines and gliding drones. Compare that with 'Odessa' or 'Codeine' - pulsating drones in which electronics celebrate (with a guitar strum never far away). But in all it's aspects, Fennesz slightly fuzzy electronic sound, which is warm most of the time, the musical element is never far away. He never drowns in letting the plug ins wander freely, but limits himself to composing a small, yet definte composition. A rare quality not often seen among the glitchtoppers. Fennesz is still the best! (FdW

Brainwashed:

Kicking off with the previous unreleased track "Good Man", Christian treats us to a taste of what's to come: warm, earthy textures in the digital whirrs and purrs, handled with his usual careful composition. This is followed by the four pieces from the out-of-print "Instrument" 12", released by MEGO in 1995. Created using guitar-based sounds, these early tracks are marked by unusual juxtapositions of mood-switching from swift, controlled grittiness to bassy, dreamy, brittle washes. Among the tracks culled from various other compilations is "Menthol" from Mille Plateaux's 'Clicks and Cuts Vol. 2', which is slightly uninspiring, standand glitchy fare. This, however, is the only low point on 'Field Recordings'. Other standouts include "Surf" from the Ash International compilation 'Decay' with its epic walls of sound and Fennesz's remix of a Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers track from their collaboration 'Heroin'. Those hungry for a follow-up to Fennesz's acclaimed 2001 album 'Endless Summer' will have to wait a bit longer, but in the mean time, this compilation serves as an excellent appetizer. - [Jessica Tibbits]

(Belgium):

Op een korte termijn brak het laptop en -gitaarwerk van de Oostenrijker Christian Fennesz bij een groter publiek door. Zijn output centert zich rond de labels Mego en Touch. Het Britse Touch heeft de naam reflectief en 'serieus' met hun artiesten en uitgaven om te gaan en het bundelen van Fennesz' moeilijker te vinden materiaal ligt dan ook in die lijn. 'Field Recordings 1995-2002' is geen verzameling van veldopnames die Fennesz nog in de kast had liggen, maar een compilatie van werk dat eerder op andere bloemlezingen verscheen, remixes (voor ondermeer Stephan Mathieu en Ekkehard Ehlers) en composities voor (kort)films. Het werk steekt van wal met de eerste uitgave die de dertiger bij Mego in 1995 bracht: de uitverkochte single 'Instrument'. De vier versies werden aangelengd met 'Good Man', een werk dat Fennesz recentelijk met de geluidsbronnen van 'Instrument' componeerde. Hoewel de Oostenrijker over de laatste zeven jaar voornamelijk in de diepte evolueerde, valt het op dat hij vroeger meer naar ritme en repetitie zocht: 'Instrument 1 & 3' bevatten een uitgevaagde breakbeat en verwijzen naar de destijds boomende drum 'n' bassesthetiek. De overige tracks gaan volledig horizontaal en schilderen - zoals gebruikelijk - traag evoluerende kleurlandschappen waar bijtijds een melancholische kilte doorwaait. In januari 2003 verschijnt bij Touch een nieuwe soloplaat van Fennesz, ondertussen is hij ook vertegenwoordigd op de compilatie 'Star Switch On'. Daarop zijn veldopnames van de Britse geluidsman Chris Watson door een keur van populaire geluidskunstenaars onder wie Mika Vainio, Philip Jeck, Hazard en Biosphere onder handen genomen (de originelen werder eerder bij Touch als de albums 'Stepping into the Dark' en 'Outside the Circle of Fire' uitgebracht). Fennesz levert een nogal statische bijdrage: op enkele loops na lijken Watsons registraties van dierengeluiden nauwelijks behandelt. Wel erg intens is het werk van Vainio en dat van Jeck: met respectievelijk elektronica en vinylmanipulatie tillen ze het griezelige basismateriaal naar het niveau van driedimensionale, beklemmende en fascinerende luistertrip. [Ive Stevenheydens]

[trans:
Quite rapidly the work (guitar and laptop) of Fennesz reached a larger audience. His work is brought out via the labels Mego and Touch. The British label Touch is famous for dealing reflectively and seriously with both artists and their releases. Bringing together Fennesz harder to find work on one CD seems a logical step. 'Field Recordings 1995-2002' is not a collection of field recordings, but a compilation of earlier recorded tracks, of remixes (for Stephan Mathieu en Ekkehard Ehlers) and compositions for (short) movies. The CD starts with an edition of the now sold out single ‘Instrument’ that was brought out on Mego in 1995. The four versions were followed by ‘Good man’, a work that Fennesz made recently with the sound sources he used for ‘Instrument’. Although the Austrian evolved the last seven years more into depth, it is striking that he sought more for rythm and repitition in his early years: 'Instrument 1 & 3' contain a phased-out breakbeat and refers to the formerly booming drum 'n' bass aesthetics. The remaining tracks are fully horizontal and they paint – as usual – slowly evolving coloured landscapes with a sometimes chilling melancholy. In january 2003 Touch will bring out a new Fennesz solo CD. Meanwhile Fennesz is also present on the compilation 'Star Switch On'. This CD contains the field recordings of Chris Watson interpreted by popular sound-artists such as Mika Vainio, Philip Jeck, Hazard and Biosphere (the original versions were earlier released on Touch as the albums 'Stepping into the Dark' and 'Outside the Circle of Fire'). Fennesz’ contribution is rather static: apart from a few loops he seems not to have treated Watsons’ field recordings. Very intense however are the contributions of Vainio and Jeck: with respectively electronica and vinyl manipulation they manage to lift up the spooky original material towards a three dimensional, haunting and fascinating listening trip.]

%Array (UK):

Not field recordings per se, rather an attempt to cast the spotlight onto some of Fennesz' other, perhaps less well known, activities - particularly his remixes - and cast a backwards glance over several notable contributions to compilations that might otherwise have slipped beneath the radar. The reproduction of his critically acclaimed 'Instrument' EP (originally released on 12" vinyl on Mego in 1995) is reason alone to own this compilation. As if that weren't enough, Touch have generously drawn together a host of remixes and contributions to a number of compilations making 'Field Recordings' an indispensable release. 'Menthol', from 'Clicks & Cuts Vol. 2', shimmers and throbs in true Fennesz fashion - heat haze electronics, scattered tonal fragments suspended in molten glass. 'Betrieb', remixed from Ekkehard Ehlers' album of the same name, is four minutes of swirling chords, distended and set atop low end buzz. 'Surf', from Ash International's 1997 compilation 'Decay', a shuddering cascade of multi-timbral hiss unwinding slowly but surely... Fennesz' restrained electronics are the digital equivalences of Morton Feldman's gently-unfolding aural soundscapes or Mark Rothko's captivating canvasses. He resists the urge to over-produce, building careful compositions which are beautifully understated. His light touch, nuanced ebbs and flows, and distinctive voice unquestionably seductive. Closing with 'Codeine', his contribution to the remix/version album accompanying Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers' 'Heroin' re-release on Orthlorng Musork, is perfect. Musical narcotic you'd willingly become addicted to. [Chris Murphy]

also Field Recordings 1995:2002 appeared in the top 10 albums of the year in the folowing magazines:

humo 17.12.02 [belgian weekly tv mag]
The Wire - electronica section, Jan 2003 edition

%Array (UK):

Not field recordings per se, rather an attempt to cast the spotlight onto some of Fennesz' other, perhaps less well known, activities - particularly his remixes - and cast a backwards glance over several notable contributions to compilations that might otherwise have slipped beneath the radar. The reproduction of his critically acclaimed 'Instrument' EP (originally released on 12" vinyl on Mego in 1995) is reason alone to own this compilation. As if that weren't enough, Touch have generously drawn together a host of remixes and contributions to a number of compilations making 'Field Recordings' an indispensable release. 'Menthol', from 'Clicks & Cuts Vol. 2', shimmers and throbs in true Fennesz fashion - heat haze electronics, scattered tonal fragments suspended in molten glass. 'Betrieb', remixed from Ekkehard Ehlers' album of the same name, is four minutes of swirling chords, distended and set atop low end buzz. 'Surf', from Ash International's 1997 compilation 'Decay', a shuddering cascade of multi-timbral hiss unwinding slowly but surely... Fennesz' restrained electronics are the digital equivalences of Morton Feldman's gently-unfolding aural soundscapes or Mark Rothko's captivating canvasses. He resists the urge to over-produce, building careful compositions which are beautifully understated. His light touch, nuanced ebbs and flows, and distinctive voice unquestionably seductive. Closing with 'Codeine', his contribution to the remix/version album accompanying Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers' 'Heroin' re-release on Orthlorng Musork, is perfect. Musical narcotic you'd willingly become addicted to. [Chris Murphy]

Disquiet (USA):

Best of 2002:

Fragile as they are visceral, Christian Fennesz's compositions often sound like instrumental approximations of everyday noise filtered through a pop sensibility -- what seems like distant traffic could just as easily be a guitar symphony, and what seems like a distant industrial hum is more likely a precisely constructed experiment in rhythm and sound.

Tyden (Czech Republic):

can be read here
 
D-Side (France):

review can be read here


Side Line (Belgium):

First there's the funny cover of this album, showing a picture of an old tractor in the midst of a field. It more than probably represents the title of the album by Christian Fennesz. His "Field Recordings" are a selection of contributions to compilations, special projects, film soundtracks, his debut 12" and a few previously unreleased tracks. Diving into the universe of Fennesz is like a trip through diversified ambient impressions. The opening cuts are real attention grabbers for showing an elaborated writing process in the ambient style! He recovers his textures with a wealth of sound, adding several industrial ideas to the whole work! The "Instrument 1" and "Instrument 3" pieces are both real pearls! It's a while ago that an extreme form of ambient has caught my attention that much. Especially the 2nd cut is remarkable for the cold and sterile atmosphere that has been reinforced with a sort of space bleeps! I just regret that the entire album doesn't sound the same direction! Fennesz also experiences with acoustic guitar soundscapes, opening a door to pure experimental form! I realize that the main part of his oeuvre comes closer to the real soundtrack composition, but I can only hope that this artist will ever create a pure opus in the style of of the debut songs! Anyway, a worth to listen! (DP:6/7)DP.

Dusted (USA):
 
Grounds for Renown. Christian Fennesz's relative superstardom is fascinating given the opaque nature of his craft. Disfiguring, and in the process often disenfranchising the guitar through a series of audio synthesis programs doesn't normally translate into wide-ranging recognition. Previous works like Hotel Parallel and plus forty seven degrees 56' 37" minus sixteen degrees 51' 08" merit their masterpiece reputations, but remain intensely esoteric and austere. Similar European artists have blazed equally captivating excursions into the avant-garde (see the Raster-Noton label for example) without developing the buzz worthy of promotional comparisons and RIYL stickers. Fennesz's recent forays into popular culture ("covering" the Rolling Stones and, for all intents and purposes, the Beach Boys) undoubtedly attracted music enthusiasts outside of the Powerbook nation and inside a more media-driven marketplace. The potential novelty value of "Paint It Black" and outright melodicism of Endless Summer caught avant-rock fans by surprise in 2001, filling a niche for something "new" and redefining the extent of their genre. However, an argument can be made that Fennesz's fame is partially linked to his prolificacy. The man has played a part in over a dozen full-length recordings since 1995, ranging from his solo studio albums to improvisational group collaborations on labels like Erstwhile and Grob. It also doesn't hurt to be one-third of a "supergroup" with Peter Rehberg and the ubiquitous Jim O'Rourke. Fans of Fennesz's permeation of the avant-garde and not just his pop sensibility are more apt to fall for Field Recordings 1995:2002, a collection of compilation donations over the past eight years plus the entirety of 1995's Instrument EP. Many of the recordings and remixes on Field Recordings unfurl with the gentility that marked Endless Summer, but not necessarily the explicit detail to melody. In a sense, Field Recordings acts as an introduction to the recently converted fashionista who know only of his sun-kissed systemische. Instrument, his debut 12" for Mego, is the key installment on Field Recordings. The long out-of-print EP, here remastered, features some of Fennesz's most overtly rhythmic compositions. "Instrument 1" consists of looped guitar roughage and danceable beats that could be adequately deemed "post-industrial". "Instrument 2" dusts mechanical dither with hesitant, almost translucent piano, while "Instrument 3" overlays cyclical guitar stabs and a skittering cymbal to dizzying effect. Instrument's finale "Instrument 4" is perhaps the jumping-off point for Fennesz's later work. Here he trades rhythm for hues, looping a languid guitar piece underneath some digital dust. The resolute attention to backdrop, and on a grander scale the delineation of space, on "4" was manifest in greater detail on Hotel Parallel and remains one of Fennesz's studio specialties. The various Various Artists tracks assembled here vary in profundity. "Ivend00", which was composed for the rkk13 CD on Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge, is a thin exercise in pretense. "Surf", taken from Ash International's Decay is an aptly-titled and engrossing dive into shoegazer drone. "Good Man", which was reportedly composed specifically for this compilation, actually sounds like material from the cutting-room floor of the Endless Summer sessions. Fans of the Summer sound have two far-better tracks to digest here, both remixes for Ekkehard Ehlers, possibly Fennesz's closest contemporary. "Betrieb" features a serene string drone with momentary glitches, while the album's closer "Codeine" (a remix of the Ehlers/Stephan Mathieu track "Heroin") executes the Endless Summer blueprint to perfection. Its folky guitar strums and ethereal drones are a blissful counteractant to the harsher complexities of Field Recordings. Whether "Codeine" is enough to satiate the latter-day Fennesz fan is questionable, but for those who hold Hotel Parallel in the same regard as Endless Summer, the inclusion of Instrument more than justifies Field Recordings. Plus, nothing cements rock star status like a spotty B-sides compilation. [Otis Hart]

Blitz (Portugal):

In "Field Recordings" there is a game of ironies which is not circumscribed to the relationship of the CD title and its cover. Contrary to what one is led to think, the album is not made up of field recordings, but rather of a compilation of Fennesz's studio works. It comprises a period between 1995 and 2002, and includes tracks previously scattered, namely remixes, new versions and themes only available on compilations or vynil. However, despite such disparate origins, despite the wide time length, there is a link between the tracks which confirms Fennesz's aesthetic coherence. On the other hand, the intrinsic quality of each track reaffirms Fennesz as one of contemporary electronics' most interesting exponents. But this edition is, foremost, a perfect opportunity to deconstruct his method. It hits stridently, it dissecates coldly, it performs autopsies on the borderline of maximum voltage. the parisitism that sustains the endemic systems reveals its granular progression, it offers itself in calculated corrosion. It's the noisiest side of Fennesz, the one in which acidity acts more explicitely upon the melodic surfaces. "Field Recordings" resists against any ambient context, it slowly thunders its back against tranquility. It is an album that which opens space with hypnotic precision, absorbs the air in a crawling progression. The idyllic cover is, therefore, misleading. But that is part of the game of ironires - this one is simply one more. (8/10) [trans. Heitor Alvelos]

nthposition (web):

Having made a considerable splash with last year's 'Endless Summer', Fennesz has gone back through his catalogue and put together this compilation of small projects from the last seven years. Much of the material here is similar in feel to 'Endless' - powerbook click and cut combined with guitar producing curiously pastoral drone-based soundscapes. Given this kind of palette, it is easy for musicians to become complacent and just loop a few samples, sit back and let the laptop make the running. Christian Fennesz is not one for the easy option, however; every piece here is carefully thought out and structured, giving even the simplest-seeming drone an absorbing structural complexity. Pieces included here range from the ragged roar of Name with no Horse, an energetic deconstruction of America's Horse With No Name, to two tracks from the soundtrack of the film 'Blue Moon, Stairs' and 'Odessa', which quiver with low-key microtonal subtlety. Here, in its entirety, is Fennesz's first 12" single, Instrument - four tracks, Instrument 1-4 which first appeared in '97. Going back to the roots of the Fennesz sound, some of the inspirations for his music become clearer, with Instrument 2 having strong overtones of Cabaret Voltaire circa 'Red Mecca'. The CD opens with the one entirely new track here, Good Man, which takes a simple guitar piece and pulls it apart like one of those exploded diagrams of aircraft etc that used to front The Eagle, abstracting the elements into buzzes, clicks and hums. The whole album is consistently strong, with curiously tuneful elements emerging from the drone and rumble that makes up the core of these pieces. Fennesz is proving himself to be a subtle worker within the limited paramaters he sets himself for his work. He shows confidence, dedication and an impressive imagination, The music that results is curiously beautiful in a way one would not expect, given the source material. This is also much stronger than one usually expects from a stop-gap archive-trawling album and has thoroughly whetted my appetite for Fennesz's next proper album, due in early 2003. [Ian Simmons]


super45 (Peru):

Sin pecar de fanatismo, hay que decir que Field recordings es lo que cualquier artista o banda requiere para enfrentarse a un nuevo público: una compilación de trabajos para películas, remixes y el hoy descatalogado EP de 1995, Instrument. El disco se abre con la genial e inédita ‘Good man’ en la que Christian Fennesz demuestra lo grandioso que resulta el ruidismo con toques melódicos y tintes sonoros guitarrescos. Quizás sea la gema del disco junto con lo que viene a continuación: el hoy buscadísimo Instrument EP que en este compilatorio aparece en su totalidad. La primera parte del disco acaba con Instrument 4, que debe mucho a Brian Eno por sus ambientes y sus teclados. La segunda parte empieza con la genial 'Betrieb', tema de un ruidismo y paisajes sonoros puros con toques finales similares a latidos; en 'Menthol', extraído del compilado Clicks and cuts vol. 2 (para el mismo sello), se aprecia la complejidad del sonido del vienés. 'Surf' remite a sonidos casi shoegazing, mezclados con la ambientación, ruidos y la música progresiva alemana de décadas atrás – krautrock, que le dicen. 'Stairs', 'Odessa'(de la película Blue Moon del 2002) e 'Ivendoo' son ambientaciones de minuto y medio. Los dos minutos de guitarra y ruidos a los Merzbow de 'Name with no horse' casi se acercan a la versión original de America. El disco acaba con otro buen tema: 'Codeine', el remix para Heroin de E Ehlers y Stephan Mathieu, con los ya conocidos sonidos electro-acústicos de guitarras acopladas a sonidos paisajistas. Field recordings rescata para el "gran público" una excelente parte del catálogo de Fennesz que, de otro modo, habría sido patrimonio exclusivo de los coleccionistas. Más que recomendable.
[Reynaldo Gonzales Ágreda]

and a review from Turkey can be read here






fakejazz.com:

SETTING: It is New Years Eve and I am having dinner at a friends apartment.

PARTICIPANTS: Me, Pete Spynda, Ken Camden, Paul Groper, Ang Gagnon, Christie Gagnon, Portobello Mushrooms, Salad, Water, Vegetable Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookies

STORY: Dinner is about to begin when I suggest that we should put on the new Fennesz CD. I had already told Ken and Pete how much I liked it so it was agreed upon that Fennesz would be our dinner music. I turned the CD on and sat down at the table. I began by pouring myself a glass of water. The music begins with a quiet, rolling, scraping sound, smooth distorted tonal patterns begin to evolve slowly under the rolling. I pass Ang a mushroom and take one for myself. Pete comments on the progression, something to the extent of "I like this, it really pushes forward without really going anywhere." He passes me the vegetable pie. I can see that Christie is beginning to look anxious. Ken comforts her with his hand on her shoulder. The music continues to grow, raising frequencies and constantly enveloping itself sometimes being interrupted by electronic glitches. Paul comments on the fact that my glass of water is beginning to shake. The progression continues building in intensity. Time begins to slow down for me. I am completely lost in the sound. Pete begins to choke on a piece of vegetable pie when the tones fade into what I will consider to be the meanest gangsta rap beat I have ever heard. This only lasts for a short while as the beat subsides and morphs into a new static tone. Pete gives himself the Hymleck against a chair. He pours himself a glass of water and tries to relax. A small digital rhythmic pattern begins to develop. Ken stands up screaming, "I feel like Darth Vader is serenading at me from the bottom of my fish tank." Ang gets a look of fear in her eye and tells Ken it is just the music. He settles but is obviously not well. Everyone seems to be getting a bit edgier. Paul begins to twitch. Clicks, pops, and glitches begin to have small conversations between short computer tones slowly dripping together into a digital popcorn. We are all looking for a pattern here. I begin to talk about my love for early video game sound while eating a cookie, suddenly I spit the cookie out as the greatest wall of distorted sound this side of Merzbow takes over. No one can eat. No one can speak. We are all in the midst of the wild harsh drones. We are no longer in the apartment. We have entered into a laptop computer consciousness. I feel like my nose will bleed soon. Finally the distortion fades into a beautiful wave of slow morphing tones, "sound", and mild skipping interruptions. A sense of structure begins and dinner continues. Pete says something about the simple rhythmic complexities being static like rain after thoughts. It is obvious to me at this point that this music has made us all insane. We continue to eat slowly and the music continues to morph into itself creating a tonal symphony between distortions, low end hums, scratches, and pops. Dinner is silent as the music fades. Only sixteen minutes and thirty three seconds had past but we were all different by then. Ken was convinced that his metabolism had changed. Pete just wanted to listen to Folke Rabe. Ang decided to go to sleep but complained of machine-like bugs tearing at her feet in her dreams. Christie tried to wash dishes but dropped three of them on the floor. I drove home and wrecked into a fire hydrant. When I awoke in the hospital the doctor told me that the tumor I had been diagnosed with the week before had miraculously disappeared. Thank you Fennesz!!

RESULTS: Don't just worship Fennesz because he is from Austria. Worship him because this record is incredible

The Wire:
 
More engaging by far is the Fennesz CD-R, recorded live in Melbourne during the same [Mego] tour. Only 16 minutes long, the improvisation springs from a rustling, low pitched loop and a curiously churchy fuzz organ. Fennesz's minor-key play is quite affecting, setting up a fragile melodic fragment that is eventually swallowed up by swarms of hiss and buzz. In its second phase the piece is taken over by a roaring, guitar-derived blast of sound that is counterposed by clicks and whistles. Then a shimmering chord rises to the centre of the piece. Fennesz likes notes - his pieces pit expressive chords and tones against the coarse and thrilling evasiveness of noise. Deliciously softcore. [Will Montgomery]
 
Other Music:

RealAudio link

Perhaps one of the pitfalls of laptop-performance-oriented music is that the artists tend to corner themselves either into undirected improvisation or bland repetition. In this, his first solo live CD, Christian Fennesz overcomes and completely avoids these issues to create one of the most powerfully intense live sets with the same tools. His piece evolves and changes rapidly, yet remains completely cohesive and focused. The sound itself is pure and undiluted; textures wash over each other, lush and beautiful melodies rise up to the foreground, or fall back, just underneath the waves. Much attention is paid to dynamics, from quietly sparse textures to passionate swirling walls of sound. It's neither too short nor too long: therefore time doesn't exist, just the sound itself. Clocking in at just under 17 minutes, this live performance has more focus, depth and direction than others twice its length. The two minutes in RealAudio above are among the best two minutes I've had all year. [JZ]

Electronik:

This is the third in Touchs series of live recordings, following Philip Jeck in Tokyo and SETI in Brussels. Recorded at the Revolver Club in Melbourne on the Mego tour of Australia, it follows Fenneszs critically acclaimed Plus Forty Seven Degrees 5637 Minus Sixteen Degrees 5108 album (also on Touch). The CD itself is 16:33 long and amounts to a snapshot of the Fennesz live experience. Taking a range of electronically generated buzzes, tones, blips and clicks; he turns them into a work of art. His music shifts and evolves as you listen; tones and pitches change and new sounds are introduced. The intensity and sound level slowly increase before dying out again, only to reconstruct itself again. Electronic tones crackle and fizz as guitar feedback whistles over them. Never static or showing any sign of a programmed loop, Fennesz's music twists, turns and evolves before you. Amazing. Totally engaging beautiful music that provides an insight into the intensity of Fennesz's work in the live arena. A thoroughly excellent CD that is well worth investigating further, especially if you enjoy the work of Biosphere, Hazard and alike. [Paul Lloyd 12 October 2000]

Francois Couture [AMG]:

This EP was recorded live at the Revolver in Melbourne, Australia, on February 3, 2000. Although it bears a CD-R catalog number and is packaged like Touch's CD-R line, it is not a CD-R but a limited pressing of 1,000 copies. Christian Fennesz has quickly become a major figure on the free improv electronics scene, and here he shows what his live magic is all about. The piece is made of white noise, analog electronics, some digital real-time editing, and (maybe?) electric guitar. Fennesz' approach here is rather minimal. He eludes the standard built-up format and keeps the music delicate and low-profile for the first half, before it suddenly explodes at eight-and-a-half minutes into the track, creating a wake-up call effect. A few minutes later, the piece quiets down into a polluted new age mood. Impressive.

Array [web]:

At a guess 'Live at Revolver' was recorded at this year's 'What is Music' festival and amounts to a snap-shot (at just over 16 minutes) of a single performance by Christian Fennesz, one of the laptop participants. Fennesz is known to source many of his sounds from guitar, recording straight to hard-disc, and although he often gives free rein to the the laptop's facility as a noise-generator he tempers his sound with ghostly melodies in which fragmentary guitar chords are often discernible just below the surface. By the time we join this performance the kindling sticks are crackling. Fennesz improvises a stunted melody for some minutes in which he stops and unstops organ-like notes in a somewhat random fashion, managing to make his presence without exactly blowing the barn doors away.  At a point about half-way through this recording, however, after his earlier activities have fizzled out in a mild gust of radio interference, Fennesz chooses to drop a quite stunning slab of guitar-viscera into the left channel. One can imagine the bar sitters grabbing for their earplugs, hairs standing up on the backs of necks, as one onslaught follows another of quite delicious melodic noise. The storm subsides and Fennesz finally bears his listeners aloft on a turbulent carpet ride of uplifting chords and ionic interference. I wouldn't exactly describe this as an essential piece of Fennesz (for that look to his 3" CD on Tanz*Hotel 'Il Libro Mio' in particular, or his earlier full-length on Touch) but then, it doesn't exactly present itself as being that either: it comes in a plain white card sleeve bearing a CDR catalog number and monochrome artwork which shadows that of his earlier Touch CD. For such humility this CD rather recommends itself. [GM]

remote induction [web]:

This live recording from Christian Fennesz starts with a crackling layer. This has a vibrating feel as it loops, buzz and whirr being added slowly to provide a certain melodic suggestion. Mild tumbling sounds and strong string can be heard within the sighing flow. These elements go through moments of intensification - the background layer streaming in a tinny fashion, before stepping up a notch. The initial rumbles become more a ridge, a wave that rises and falls. Then everything falls down to a sigh of notes and barest crackle. From which we have a mild build, followed by a more pronounced level of detuned signal. The form of crackle and buzz becomes a translation of data, accelerating with each punch card processed. The buzz almost grinds as this builds into a bubbling whole - layers amassing with the momentum. Stripping down to a tight crackling oscillation, the frequency then falling and threatening to collapse. Though before it does a smooth tone comes up and we have a more melodic micro section - punctuated by high blips. Shifting again this takes on a more pulsing feel while retaining consistent elements. Then its over, being the third in Touch's series of live recordings, consisting of 1 track just over 16 minutes long.

frequency [web]:

Clocking in at a nadge over quarter of an hour long, Live At Revolver, Melbourne makes up for its shortness with some intensity instead. The whines and drones of clickety-snickety underpinnings meet tones at fifty paces then closing to quarters more uncomfortable. These things should sometimes be kept at arms length, but bringing the sound of what resembles a wardrobe being manhandled into a coal cellar this close to the ears can be enjoyable up to a point. That point is probably about right at the length presented here. Hypnosis is acheived, interventions made and proposed, the texture of hiss and decay propounded on the bones of rhythm and melody just about gets remembered like a distant cousin. There are guitars resident in the cloacum of rendered acoustic transformation, but they don't stand a chance against the forces of sputter and disc-error scrum which evolves into purgative electronic outburts; which is as it should be on such occasions. One of the key lessons of this unrestrained noise-chunder format is knowing when enough is enough for the audience or listener if not the performer; so easy to misjudge, to collapse into the delights of letting freeform spats of the kind of noise your grandmother wouldn't like unless she happened to be Alice Coltrane fly free. Even if it was time restraints which brought about the limit to this performance, such are the benefits of restriction. As the downward coast in territories of less opprobrious earache engenderment suggest closure, it is to Christian Fennesz' considerable credit that it's with a flitter of fond farewell rather than endurance that the CD concludes. [Antron S. Meister]

Chain D.L.K. [USA]

One track, 16 minutes, 3rd live album for Touch (after Philip Jeck's Tokyo performance and S.E.T.I.'s Brussels concert) and 2nd release by Fennesz (after his acclaimed "Plus Forty Seven Degrees 56'37" Minus Sixteen Dregrees 51'08". Recorded live on the Mego tour (at the What is Music Festival) in Melbourne, Australia, Mr. Christian 'anti festival-sponsors' Fennesz live sessions aren't obviously a recreation of the unique sounds of his debut (it would be quite difficult to create sounds of his garden - where he recorded the foresaid debut album - on the stage). Subtle noises feeding loud amplifiers, cutting edge know tweaking and softer crystal layers... all together... I can't picture a concert like this without an extraordinary Orb-like light show... who knows... [Marc Urselli-SchĢrer]

goldteeth.blogspot.com [web]:

I finally got the fennesz _03.02.00 – live at revolver, melbourne_ cd (touch to:cdr3, but it's not a cdr), and if you're interested, I would recommend picking this up before the collaboration with rosy parlane. that's good, but this is great - almost a 17-minute summation of what our boy christian is all about, with guitar mulched via expensive, 3733t h4x0r warez made by old french guys – from the harshest sub-melody to the most candy-sweet noise, it is incredibly expressive/impressive and should be a model for guys with laptops and efficient euro haircuts everywhere. I like fennesz when he collaborates with others, but I love him when he works alone, excepting that last cd on touch, the longitude/latitude one. which I might actually buy again.




Mojo (UK):
 
AND THIS...
 
RECORDED IN his back garden using a Powerbook and a mixing desk, fennesz' second album 'plus forty seven degrees 56' 37" minus sixteen degrees 51' 08"' (Touch) is an object lesson in just how far out there you can go with a little technology. Through layering, shaping and distorting sounds fennesz has created an intensely varied, often disjointed slice of outre electronica that encompasses mesmeric textures, harsh frequencies and churning sheets of noise. Recommended listening for anyone with an interest in the sonic manipulations of Oval, Pan Sonic or the Mego label, who released fennesz' 'Hotel Paral.lel' debut. (Andrew Carden)
 
Othermusic (USA):
 
Created using field recordings of his backyard and signature guitar playing, this CD shows Mego artist Christian Fennesz taking a different approach from the fragmented and cracked pop treatments of "hotel paral.lel" and "Plays". Far subtler and more abstract, melody is hinted at, but never achieved, buried beneath layers of sound. Any resemblence to the source material is obliterated, yet each sound somehow retains some vague, inherent qualities Beautifully designed with photography by Jon Wozencroft. [JZ]
 
VITAL (The Netherlands):
 
Herr Fennesz released his first solo album 'Hotel Paral.lel' on Mego. Earlier this year his CD Single of covers of the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys came out on Moikai, and he's been busy contributing tracks to compilations and performing as one of the laptop gang. [He won a prize at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria this year, which I discovered in the press release, he promptly broke in protest 'of the festival organiser's bias towards sponsor politics'. A man of danger, obviously. Still this sort of petulant behaviour has to happen at least once during the lifetime of any festival, I suppose. Personally I think that if he'd slowly squatted down on it until it completely disappeared, he - and it - would have made a more lasting impression. I mean, even Marlon Brando can bite the face off an Oscar, for God's sake. Never mind, I just wish this sort of redundant behaviour wasn't used to advertise to what marvellous and subtle heights human expression can rise.] Rather leave it to the things we manifest to display our brilliance, for these are infinitely more refined than we can ever hope to be. This new CD by Christian Fennesz is just such a beauty spot on the face of Pulchritude. Basic material was apparently recorded in his back garden - you can find out where he lives by using the map coordinates which are the title - using a Powerbook and a small mixing table. I'm not sure if the sounds themselve are all manipulations of natural sound events - doesn't really matter actually - this CD is a recording of a garden somewhere. A strange one, for sure, as some small creepy thing might hear it - resplendent, with microaudible made macroaudible, where sprinklers roar and scuffed gravel becomes an avalanche. The creaking arc of blades of grass straining towards the light, the soft hiss of dew chasing the sun. The murmurs of dirt, the stretching of stone and falling leaves crash like a gun. A terse 38'00 of shimmering, swirling electronic sound. A perfect length as it has to be played again immediately. Mysterious and pure. (MP)
 
The Wire:
 
Of the names associated with Austria's Mego label, Christian Fennesz is the one who has tapped most into the legacy of psychedelic and industrial music and the resources of organic noise production. Here he takes the standard Mego language of needling synthetic tones, random clicks, buzzes and electronic blisters, and fuses them into a fluid rush of energy. If at times the results recall Merzbow, it's nothing to do with the scale and density of the noise, but more the rhythm of cutting and collapsing between streaming bodies of sound. As vibrant as this music becomes with the friction of speeding numbers and fine-tuned acid fugues, it remains inventively lucid. Much of the disc is rollercoaster stuff: digital psychedelia, speedfreak agitation, virtuososound derailments. A more tranquil track shows that he can alter the configuration too &endash; it has the hushed spirituality of Arvo Part meditation heard beyond the burning rim of a bleached and blasted foreground.
 
What sticks in the ear is the clarity with which he shifts between different swathes and bandwidths of noise. From moment to moment what you catch feels like a pinball machine, a child's electronic toy, a rasping insect, a fax, or simply the abstract whirr of digital information &endash; all caught up in an articulate but pressured streamline.
 
Illuminations (Turkey):

Would you pay listening to the microscopic world with telescopic ears? No, not a micro-nature documentary we're talking about, at least not an ordinary one. Austrian musician Christian Fennesz, who's long known for his experiments with the electric guitar here presents 8. pieces of sonic mastery, totally entitled with the coordinates of his home, which he used as an abundant sound-source. "Plus Forty 56'37" Seven Degrees Minus Sixteen Degrees 51'08"" is a boiling pot of noisescapes which are distilled from the micro sound-universe of Mr. Fennesz's backgarden and processed in a powerbook and mixing desk - a brilliant example of proggression without being engaged to equipment fetishism. What he achieved is a meshwork of drebbling, rattling, pulsating and squelching noises, which are often washed with thick streams of icy echoes or backed by microwave swarms. The often disjointed organization of soundwebs can be connected to the Japanoise school but in regards of saturation the sounds do not surpass a certain limit. A pure and profound release that sticks a new definition to naturalism. [M.Y.]

Weekly Dig (USA):
 
Ambient synthesis and experimentation comes in many forms, ranging from syncopated gentle humming sounds with minimal beats to noisy atmospherics seemingly of extraterrestrial origin. Christian Fennesz, armed with only Powerbook and guitar, conceived his latest astral-ambient experimental piece in the comfort and privacy of his own backyard. The 8 tracks, obscure in nature and designated only by spatial numeric sequences like 010, 011, 012, 013 etc., offer a unique perspective of man and machine in a natural setting. The music itself contains soothing, minimalist segments, seamlessly recorded in a real-time fashion without noticeable breaks or interruption. Very reminiscent of early work produced by Robin Rimbaud a.k.a Scanner and solo material, Fennesz becomes the human link where terrestrial and celestial become one, as fragmented minimalist sound structures provide the dimly lit path Fennesz now walks. (Alkemist)
 
gg (USA):
 
Why is Vienna's Christian Fennesz one of the most widely respected and imitated guitarists of his generation? His notion of using new technology to reinvent an old instrument isn't unique in and of itself. But few execute these ambitions with the sparkling musicality that marks Fennesz's self-sampled computer-and-guitar treatments. Guitar may be the last thing to come to mind as coruscating wavebreaks, torrents of resampled sound, and crystalline glitch showers pour forth from Fennesz's second album. Yet six strings and a Powerbook are the sole sources of the sonic phenomena Fennesz conjures on +475637 -165108. Even as sounds are drastically crunched, compressed, and rejiggered, the lushness and luminance of Fennesz's compositions go against the sterile anti-nature of computerized synthesis. The eight untitled tracks resemble sensitive, telescopic recordings of rainforest insect life or natural atmospheric occurrences, not calculated computer-lab findings. This inherent naturalism extends to the warm, lifelike pulses that find their way into each piece. Fittingly, +475637 -165108 takes its title from the coordinates of Fennesz's backyard garden, the site of the open-air studio where these tracks were created.
 
City Newspaper (USA):
 
Imagine the electric guitar severed from cliché and all of its physical limitations, shaping a bold new musical language. Based in Vienna, Austria, Christian Fennesz sources all of his sounds from an electric guitar and takes the instrument into completely new territory. An articulate rush of cracked ambiance, digitalia, and musical malfunction. See also: Second by Chicago's Kevin Drumm on Perdition Plastics, and, in 2000, Insulation by Australia's Oren Ambarchi on Touch.
 
Jazzthetik (Germany):
 
Data torn apart becomes new, different data. Cut and paste in a format of sound...sometimes just paste, paste, paste. 014 - that's no vapours, that's a single cover. A plank. Made of nails and full of fluff. Surfaces appear from everywhere and change into a great rustling which is whirling in itself, compressed and dense. When there's suddenly quiet, then there's nothing. Nothing. Other tracks are made of angles. Thousands of angles which never become a circle. But a crystal made of oscillating interferences and ether noises. Christian Fennesz makes the conditions of production, under which sounds remain to be developed, seen and heard via his laptop. And he's marking his own interventions in that process. So there's the crackling noises of tools switched on as well as technical errors and high-frequency flirring of the tools themselves. The production of sounds reduced to its economical and social reality. (Klaus Smit)
 
Alternative Press (USA):
 
My Bloody Valentine are famous for having thrown the guitar into the digital blender, whipping up catgut froth in a radically new mélange (meringue?) of pop and noise. Ten years down the line, Christian Fennesz has given Kevin Shield's electric mixer an exponential power boost, proving that there are still hitherto unimagined flavors to be juiced out of the mixture of guitar pick and microchip. Picking up where his Hotel Paral.lel (Mego, 1997) left off, Plus Forty Seven Degrees sails by charts and map the chance geometry of digital sound manipulation. You may never hear the six-stringed underpinnings here, but you'll certainly feel echoes of their resonance in the frozen tones like water currents caught, snap-shot style, in a glacier's crawl, and transformed into something brittle and menacingly beautiful. Like the best artisans of 'microscopic sound', Fennesz recreates the organic from the atom up; he's a Romantic seduced by the binary.
 
The press release for the album says that is "was recorded by Fennesz during July and August this summer, transforming his back garden into an open air studio, using only guitar and powerbook". That unlikely idyllic duality comes through on the CD, reinforced by Jon Wozencroft's lush landscape photographs, which adorn the package. Imagine a chorus of modems caroling cricket fantasias and you're halfway there. (Philip Sherburne)
 
USA (net):
Fascinating walls of wiry sound stretched and kneaded by the prolific Christian Fennesz (the enclosed info sheet has him playing with a multitude of bands and musicians who reside on the outskirts of experimental). The music was created using only guitar and Powerbook, and recorded in his back garden; the impression of space is quite prevalent when the guitar's feedback and slippery noise wails to the open sky, while more earthbound, the sneaky cadences of manipulation are jittery like ants attacking an intruding beetle. "010" sweeps down on wings of wind-battered sound, wings that flutter, flap and glide. " 013" on the other hand, is nervous and twitchy, gurgling spastically before slipping into disjointed sequences that mesh musicality with static noise. Huge chords tumble forth during "014," coagulating like blood from a wound after the bleeding has ceased, slow and thick, while underneath, mesmerizing slashes of corrosive noise slice into fresh veins and arteries, forcefully draining more blood. The whole disc is a balance of clash and resolution between disparate sonic entities, a balance of stormy turbulence and itchy experimentalism. (JC Smith)
 
FAQT (USA):
 
Those damned Austrians and their glitch worshipping slop. Since 1994, the world has been subjected to zero and one heresy - Viennese label Mego acting out as corner stable - by the country's laptop wielding byte-monger elite. Who will save us? Call the UN. Bomb the fuckers.
 
Christian Fennesz is one such infamous footsoldier, notorious for obliterating Rolling Stone and Beach Boys classics, and a recent honoree at Austria's Ars Electronica festival. His second full length solo album was recorded in his backyard , under the open sky with just a guitar and a powerbook. You'd never know by listening, but it's fascinating just the same. Typically abstract and random in form, Fennesz's "degree symphony" is best when he turns up the heat and boils the sauce. The tension within the pool, the molecular shuffle of digital beads, the jagged brittle tones - sometimes faintly heart-tugging - it's mesmerizing and inspiring to behold. Like easy listening for the noise fan. Not so compelling is Fennesz in telegraph mode, but that's personal taste, I guess. Take it with a grain...
 
New York Press (USA):

These three important new albums from core practitioners of the glitchwerks movement represent the next step in the genre's evolution. While the first batch of glitchwerks releases (reviewed here a year ago) tended to stress the formal aspects of the music, these new offerings begin to take the cold digital source material and add emotion and warmth to it. It's fascinating to witness the melding of a didactic approach to computer-based work - some genuinely personal statements emerge.

 
Out of the thick waves of white digital noise, melody begins to appear. Christian Fennesz's latest begins with a soft atmospheric track - an electronic Satie-esque tune awash in sensual, transistor-radio-like static; it's a thick, calming, digital fog. The fourth track starts out with standard skipping glitches but soon shifts focus to a piano, which is digitally mangled, creating a savvy binary update to Cage's prepared pian - think of it as a "processed piano." The piano serves as a melodic basis for the piece, which is constantly interrupted by mechanical noises of every stripe. It's a great metaphor for the way electronics are altering the function of traditional concert hall instruments, giving them entirely new leases on life. A track in the middle of the disc at first sounds like a sheer assault on the ears, but as the piece progresses and your ears become accustomed to the volume, a gorgeous melody emerges from the density. It's a bit like listening to Morton Feldman - once you get on Fennesz's wavelength, small, unexpected occurrences leap out of every nook and cranny of the recording. It's a complex, varied and luscious landscape, echoing the cover art, which features photographs of lush, green landscapes that have been altered in some way by man and machines.
 
The Sound Projector (UK):
 
Christian Fennesz, one of the Mego 'superstars', and the man who brought us the sublime Fennesz Plays 45 last year, is on the warpath like a roaring beast here. The Mego team, concentrating on generating truly modern electronic music, have dispensed with conventional instruments like sequencers, drum machines and synths - and started to tinker directly with the sort of computer programming that makes such machines work in the first place. The most efficient way to do it seems to be to bypass the instruments and go straight to the programme, via a Powerbook. Using the keyboard and mouse, an intelligent artisan can vary the nature of his soundforms however he chooses.
 
You'd be forgiven for thinking this is record in no way 'musical'. Under normal circumstances I'd be put off too, but one listen to the furious and powerful sound textures on this (and other Mego-related items) will excite your neurons in ways you'd never dreamed possible - and change your mind in a second. This work is in fact more musical than much of what passes for musical entertainment in the welter of techno-based releases. At first listen, this may seem an excessively abstract work - perhaps brutally so. But all the features of exciting music are there, really - depth, texture, dynamics, volume and rhythm - but expressed as purely abstract, digital tones, freed from the associations of melody and harmony.
 
There are at least three great features to Christian Fennesz's work. One - unpredictability. His best moments - and these would include the wonderful final track on this not-overlong CD - confound the expectations of any listener, leaving one puzzled. What was that? Why did it stop so suddenly when it was just starting to say something? This sense of puzzlement can turn into a good thing, if you'll let it. This music is not inconsequential, because it leaves a very strong impression with you.
 
Two - Brevity. There's a lot of information in a Fennesz track. He has more ideas than most electronic buffoons manage in their entire career, so many indeed that he plays two or three of them together at the same time. Each component is clearly stated, and the listener needs only to work that little bit harder to distinguish the lines of thought. But be quick, because many of these tracks are tight and concise.
 
Three - pleasure. Fragments of musical notes bubble up from time to time within the flying sheets of crunchy, textured noise. A noise so palpable it's like the inside of a Crunchy Bar. Or is rather that some of these tracks started life as a melodious tune, and have been extensively reworked and taken apart into their basic, mechanical components?
 
This is the second solo full-length recording from Christian Fennesz - the first was Hotel Paral.lel - and it's made entirely with a guitar and a computer. And it's absolutely superb. 
 
Minneapolis City Pages (USA):
 
THERE'S A THESIS to be written on the shared sociocultural factors that lead both middle-European electronic composers and their Middle American postrock kin to attempt to milk melodrama from irony. Maybe this affinity has something to do with the fact that each genre's metropolitan center occupies a similar spot on the nexus of labor and leisure. After all, Chicago is a union town, Berlin has a four-day workweek, and each has pressed musicians from diverse global crannies into paying their dues.
 
Lacking such an academic dissertation, we'll just have to settle for the aesthetic rewards that transnational collaborations like the Fenno'berg disc offer up. A meeting between Chicago post-rock avatar Jim O'Rourke and a pair of Austrians (math-rock/ambient guitarist Christian Fennesz and electro-minimalist Peter Rehberg), Fenno'berg is the sound of three men sitting at a table pecking at computers that chomp and flush what could pretty much be called the Entire History of Recorded Music. As the trio finds the anger in MOR samples and the beauty in sine-length manipulation, they manage to show up much modern tuneage, from film soundtracks to alt-rock. And yet they find the path to real emotion within that pathos.
 
For soundscapes without subtext, there's the Fennesz solo disc. Packaged in what appears to be an elaborate picture postcard of Teutonic milking country, the music scurries between the skitter of Oval, the squelch of Pansonic, and the drugged-out chest-beating of My Bloody Valentine. Most of the sounds here originate from beat-free laptop orchestrations that scrape away all musical details. Still, this is a pretty sensuous disc, particularly for music seemingly created largely to bore the girlfriends of smug audiophiles.
 
These discs represent different sides of the same musical coin. The orchestrator Fennesz secretly desires to transform a single note into a symphony. The collage artist O'Rourke hopes, conversely, to find the single note that ties together all sound. (David Strauss)
 
Outburn (USA):
 
Quirky, volatile Guitartistry: Fascinating walls of wiry sound stretched and kneaded by the prolific Christian Fennesz (the enclosed info street has him playing with a multitude of bands and musicians who reside on the outskirts of experimental). The music was created using only guitar and powerbook, and recorded in his back garden; the impression of space is quite prevalent when the guitar's feedback and slippery noise wails to the open sky, while more earthbound, the sneaky cadences of manipulation are jittery like ants attacking an intruding beetle. 010 sweeps down on wings of wind-battered sound, wings that flutter, flap and glide. 013 on the other hand, is nervous and twitchy, gurgling spastically before slipping into disjointed sequences that mesh musicality with static noise. Huge chords tumble forth during 014, coagulating like blood from a wound after the bleeding has ceased, slow and thick, while underneath, mesmerizing slashes of corrosive noise slice into fresh veins and arteries, forcefully draining more blood. The whole disc is a balance of clash and resolution between disparate sonic entities, a balance of stormy turbulence and itchy experimentalism. (JC Smith)
 
Resonance (UK):
 
In the last issue of Resonance, a single by Fennesz nearly drove me gaga with excitement with its melding of melodic themes and PowerBook manipulations. His new CD on the reliably recondite Touch Label, the snappily titled 'plus forty seven degrees 56' 37' minus sixteen degrees 51' 08' (TO: 40) is a step sideways into textural geography. The lavish packaging provides scant clues to what's going on, with each track illustrated by a pictures of natural landscapes with some evidence of human activity. On certain tracks the music seems to have been atomised into thousands of tiny stippling sounds with extreme stereo panning splitting the music into two parallel event sequences. Track 5 (called .. er.. '014') is a noisy drone- a chord almost drowned out by caustic white noise which stops dead after eight minutes. It's illustrated by pylons. Occasionally a texture appears which suggests that Fennesz's guitar may be the source, but stays tantalisingly out of reach. The CD is a magnificent and infuriating conundrum, and I love it. More fancy packaging comes with Pierre-Andre Arcand's 'Le Livre Sonore' (ohm/avtr 013) the jewel case of which is stuffed with a super illustrated book of the artist's sculptures and installations. They look great. Unfortunately the CD (which seems almost tagged on as an afterthought) is a bit dull. Consisting of a heavily echoed microphone snuffling around various bits of debris, sounding a lot like small loops of Adam Bohman, but lacking any convincing sense of structure. Even with the aid of the book it failed to hold my attention. I'd like to see an exhibition of his work though.. (Richard Sanderson)
 
Grooves (USA):
 
The last anyone heard of Fennesz he was doing strange re-assembly jobs on "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" and "Paint It Black", but his new album is entirely sourced from his own material, performed on laptop and guitar in his garden over the summer. As tends to be the case with those associated with Touch and/or Mego, Plus Forty Seven Degrees is certainly not an easy listen and a fair way from his earlier Hotel Parallel album to boot.
 
Processed feedback is the order of the day here, and plenty of it. The first track is the least adventurous but the most accessible: A throbbing feedback riff reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine hovers in the midst of icy laptop scree. Highly desirable. Subsequent tracks (there are no titles; the tracks are merely numbered from "010" to "017") are almost entirely given over to computer processing, organized in irregular patterns of blips and static to give a stuttering impression. Over time, though, the tracks do develop their own identities. A real highlight is "014", 7 minutes of cacophonous quasi-industrial computer drone with half-formed shapes stacked up behind. This tracks gets right to the innermost parts of your brain in a way few others do - very much like Farmers Manual if they decided to pursue ideas for longer than a minute and a half. None of the other tracks measure up to this, but they do have enough variations in their grainy resonance to keep you guessing what might emerge next.
 
It's difficult to know exactly what to make of Fennesz. His music is undoubtedly of a psychedelic nature. However, there's no particularly obvious reference to drugs here and the record's packaging (all rural scenes from Austria) doesn't exactly lend any clues about his intent. Maybe it's better just to immerse yourself in his mutating channels of noise without trying to figure out what it means. Chances are you'll find plenty to explore. (John Gibson)