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Fennesz: Seven Stars

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Seven Stars


Ambient music has long had a friendly relationship with cheese. It’s the difference between Brian Eno’s Music for Airports and his Music for Films, for example. Not that “cheese” is anything but a subjective term: One listener’s desert-island disc is another’s Enya drink coaster. Yet to try and find some objective ground for why the first track on guitar/software alchemist Fennesz’s first solo release since 2008, “Liminal,” lovely as it is, is so irksome, how about this: dolphins playing, cheesily. Its tidy emotional kick feels a little too cheap, a little too easy. No doubt there’s some next-level brilliant programming at work in its electronic swells, but still.

It’s one track of four on Seven Stars, currently released in physical form only as a 10-inch record (it’s available as a download as well). Otherwise, Fennesz hews closer to the sounds that made his twin landmarks, Venice and Black Sea, such (relative) hits, those frosty whorls of austere soundscaping that feel so weirdly alive, or at least autonomous. “July” and “Shift” feel the most vintage Fennesz, a mite uneasy and just as somber as glassine guitar pokes through the polar laptop sea like an ice-coated shipwreck mast. The title track tracks back to the idea that “Liminal” introduced: melodies that stay and linger rather than get subsumed into the laptop churn. There are drums on it too, which is bizarre and new. Credit perhaps recent collaborations with Tony Buck of the Necks, and earlier, Mark Linkous, the since-passed force behind Sparklehorse. For a fan, Seven Stars is certainly worth the purchase, and an interesting hint of Fennesz’s evolution. Otherwise, maybe just feel it out on Spotify first.

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