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Fennesz + Sakamoto - Cendre

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Artist: Fennesz + Sakamoto

Album: Cendre

Label: Touch

Review date: May. 18, 2007

A willfully disconnected piece of music achieved by global disconnection, Cendre is a true airmail special. Christian Fennesz sticks with his usual panoply: guitar and laptop; Ryuichi Sakamoto likewise with laptop and piano. As is often the case, Fennesz's guitar sounds nothing like strings, wood and electricity. He might as well be bowing a steel snow-shovel. Sakamoto resists artful manipulation, though, leaving the ivories wholly intact to create a lovely unification between organic and inorganic sound, a subtle jarring trick that comes off as painterly disguise. Cendre is a wide white brushstroke over a palimpsest of cray-pas’d peonies.

Both laptops work fervently, but with that sort of chilly stoicism held by keys and hardware that quietly beg for warm human input. The color achieved by electronic tinkering is spring-like; their explosive tones are embellished and slowly erased of their hues by a piano that is at once friendly and pryingly invasive. Sakamoto rightly – and successfully – stays within the close margins of Satie’s minimalism, occasionally drifting into environs sparsely populated (see “Trace” for its spidery and often atonal couplets reminiscent of Cornelius Cardew’s early work at the keys). Fennesz’s macrocosmic washes don’t ever collide with Sakamoto’s wincing fragility; they work as subtext, allowing the listener to shift focus between a narrative that could have resembled two ships passing in the night in clumsier hands. Their success with long-distance “improv” isn’t exactly startling: Fennesz and Sakamoto have had plenty of time to feel each other out and absorb individual languages and processes since getting together in 2004.

Whatever is “gleaned” from this music is user dependent. Meaning is everywhere and nowhere. Impressions could – and should – range from gentle, impassioned fucking to the discovery of a body in full rigor to the taking of a bull moose from 300 yards away. This is definitively an emotional music, built of expressive and subtly ponderous layers with able and careful hands, and, like the foreshadowing offered by its title, ultimately reduced to the nothingness of ash – created and destroyed, with only the unidentifiable rubble of ruin to prove that it ever existed in the first place.

By Stewart Voegtlin

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