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Fennesz & OZmotic - AirEffect [Folk Wisdom ı - 2015]

Christian Fennesz is a veteran artist in the 'art ambient' scene, creating texturally exact and melodically expressive works, most often with a combination of guitar, piano and electronic processing.  OZmotic is less familiar to me, an Italian soundscape duo comprised of a soprano sax player and a percussionist, who both utilize electronic processing.

Their debut collaboration "AirEffect" is a kind of eerie, understated electronic downtempo with a stagnant swamp vibe.  Sluggish, dissonant solos from various instruments waft like sickly smoke across a fogged landscape.  The sounds they've created represent a marriage of musique concrete, glitch electronic, field recordings and instrumental improvisation.

The mood is often lonely, desolate or unsettled, but without an immediate urgency.  There is an ever-present soft white wind, which gives a sense of cold.  The sound has an uneventful serenity that draws the listener into its minute details, which are myriad.  Certainly, this is a greatly more complex and layered soundscape than is found on most Fennesz solo recordings, with field recordings tucked into every crevice and corner, from metallic creaks to tiny droplets.

Fennesz' guitar is present but greatly restrained, contributing a vintage noir feeling with dirty blues chords, most often quavering and muffled, but occasionally erupting into something like a shred, such as on the track "Run to Ruin".  This track is not unlike something from Robert Rich's "Seven Veils", which similarly incorporated wailing distorted guitars into an ambient sound environment.

Sparse and mild electronic beat sequences appear in most of the songs as well, muted clicks and pops in hypnotic regular iterations, a kind of basic rhythmic skeleton to the lush orgy of three dimensional freeform textures around it.  In this way, it pays homage to the loop-based downtempo of the early 90's, and artists like Biosphere.

Opener "Ferment_action" contains periodic bleeps and electronic noise, assuring us the equipment is turned on and attempting to make quantitative sense of these natural surroundings.

"Anthropocene" is the first piece to utilize the naked sound of the soprano sax, a minor key soliloquy with a world weary hard bop feeling, unaccompanied by any kind of rhythm, instead something closer to a call and response with the raw-throated bullfrog who recurrs in the background.  Though sometimes the volume is faint, nature and animals are constantly present on this recording.

"LiquidMrkt" adds yet another dimension to the album, a kind of plunderphonics mashup of samples of news reports and documentaries concerning global economics.  While I respect purely abstract art, I also respect the efforts of these artists to acknowledge realities which may effect us all sooner than later.  I feel it is essential at this crisis time in our world to be awake and unafraid to be intellectual.

"Epilogo" ends the album with rain, boar-like animal bleats and a thunderclap, an almost purely natural soundscape punctuated with soft metal bells, the 'wettest' track on the album.  It soon takes a deeply personal and emotional turn, as a woman with a thick European accent begins to speak, a very intimate monologue about a romantic relationship, philosophy and the experience of humanity at its basic level, ending with "I am happy when you're happy, I am sad when you're sad, and when you're gone, I miss you".  These being the only such words on the album, it has a powerful effect.

This is my favorite Fennesz recording in some time, as I'd been starting to feel he'd slipped too far into bland consonance and typical overuse of piano and strings.  This album is a dream journey, the sounds of nature and technology strangely swirled together and intermingled in a complex metaphor.  I feel it has a lot more depth than the average 12k release, which can be too much simplistic retread of Eno's "Music for Airports".  With its massive variety of sound sources, there is no limit to this album's replay value.  I will have to further investigate OZmotic, as it would seem they exemplify the ambitious creative approach and romantic expressiveness that often draws me back to Italian ambient music such as Alio Die and Aglaia.

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

Josh Landry
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