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Fennesz - Black Sea [Touch - 2008]

Black Sea finds Fennesz in a contemplative, somewhat more experimental mood than his last two studio albums. His last album, Venice, took the melodic approach of his ground-breaking 2001 album Endless Summer down a notch, while evoking the mystery revolving around the city for which it was named. Despite the fact that many may consider Black Sea a departure for Christian Fennesz because of his choice to employ a less song oriented approach, it still bears his unmistakable hand print. If you listen carefully, and peer into the murky drones, there's actually a great degree of structure and musicianship hidden within much of the album. As always, his penchant for artful detail and masterful pacing is evident, even more so with repeated exposure.

As the title may imply, it's a fairly dark and melancholy album as well. The album opens into the title track with what sounds like thunder, then immediately launches into a noisy, glitch filled landscape for a few minutes. Then, emulating the tranquility which follows a thunderstorm, the piece quickly recedes into a tranquil sound-scape embellished with clean guitar tones. The Colour of Three and the following track, Perfume for Winter, are both tilted somewhat toward what might be termed Ambient; the former presenting a brief wavering drone, which is pleasant and somehow also ominous because of it's blustery quality. The latter sounds like a beautiful piano and guitar piece which is dismantled to reveal only signposts of its' original source. Not a new trick for Fennesz, but the music is more classical than pop, which signals a bit of a change. Most importantly, it's well executed, and involving.

Grey Scale is probably the most straight-forward track of the album. The track consists of folk infused finger picked guitar, a melancholy melody, and just enough computer manipulation to to blend harmoniously with the adjoining tracks. From then on Fennesz charts a course through murky drones, mysterious clanky found sounds, quiet ambience and tapped guitar tones (or could that be prepared piano?). The final track, Saffron Revolution, concludes the album in a fashion similar to its beginning, with a noisy, multi-layered guitar drone. This time, though, there's no let up, no sign of tranquility or reprieve. Black Sea is a dramatic work and though it takes the listener in different directions musically, it is sensitively arranged. Each piece builds upon the other, and it's best listened to as a whole. It's a work which demands your undivided attention, and rewards it in equal measure.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Erwin Michelfelder
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