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Fennesz - Seven Stars

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Artist: Fennesz

Album: Seven Stars

Label: Touch

Review date: Aug. 30, 2011

First, a tip of the hat to Touch Music’s design chops, which rival Apple’s for sheer seductivity. This 10” record — the label’s first venture into the big little single format — comes with a typically gorgeous cover, and the pressing is fab. But I fear that Touch is taking this step into a new format subdivision in order to confer a specialness that the music doesn’t support.

Seven Stars is the first Christian Fennesz solo release in nearly three years, and it does little to mess with his solo sonic signature. The first track “Liminal” has been a live staple for a while. It’s a big, surging mass that sounds at once electronic (he might tote a guitar on stage these days, but it’s the computer that he can’t leave home without) and naturalistic (is that the ocean surf, Christian, or is your amp sighing?). Smaller movements of barely perceptible melody course through its monolithic body. It’s gorgeous, quintessential Fennesz, so if you want more of what you love and you’re wondering if this record will supply it, you’ve got your affirmative answer.

“July” is a slow stroll for pixilated acoustic guitar and drums. It may seem like a departure, since Fennesz has never used a drum kit before, but its air of sweet melancholy, filtered through old-school modem crackle, is so heavy and familiar that it obliterates any momentary novelty. Never mind the drums, the tune could be an Endless Summer outtake.

Flip the record over and you get two more masterfully crafted, utterly familiar reconfirmations of Fennesz’s claim upon his brand. “Shift” takes a strum that could be the build-up to a power ballad’s chorus through several layers of futzed-radio interference, while the title track seems to soundtrack the search for another guitar lick in a dark virtual room. Spoiler alert — you’ll find it down-pitched and just the other side of that synthetic heat haze.

One might argue that it’s unfair to expect Fennesz, who after all has been making solo albums for 14 years and is just 16 months shy of his 50th birthday, to radically reinvent himself at this point. What he does, he does so well on this record that I would unreservedly recommend it to anyone who likes his sound. But I can’t help but remember how surprising his music up through Endless Summer was, and wish for a bit of that.

By Bill Meyer

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