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Fennesz – Bécs

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Fennesz – Bécs

The opening number sounds like the closing track; it’s all about endings with Fennesz; endless endings, everything slowing down and finishing off. These are jet trails, not jets. This is the stuff that clings to rock, not rock itself.

“Static Kings” opens Bécs like it’s the last album he’s ever going to make (cf. the, in retrospect frankly fraudulent, last track on Orbital 1.0’s Blue Album, “One Perfect Sunrise”). It deals with its emotional aggregates and it soars with them; it glorifies in that sense of abstract loss that music can specialise in; the kind of thoughts that gather at the bottom of a bottle at the bottom of the world when you look up and know, beyond all doubt, that things will never be the same and that you’d never want them to be. “Liminality,” for instance, is a big beery and bruised monster of emotion; guitars wandering off, absently; shattered at the end of a great night, trying to rouse themselves for one last riff. “One last go boys, one last go…,” you can imagine this documenting the final “fuck-it” shrugs of a tired gangster, ready to give their all, or Mickey Rourke’s terminal leap into the void at the end of The Wrestler. It’s not in the least liminal.

I read somewhere that this might have been the sequel to Fennesz’s Endless Summer and so I listened to that again while I waited for this one to arrive. The fact that it was released in 2001 was the first thing that caught me – those 13 years kinda disappeared, didn’t they? But the legacy of Endless Summer is the Endless Summer; it opened up a dirty kind of fuzzed beauty onto the world and seemed to pre-empt the slew of hazy, gauzy, Instagram, Retrica sunset-hued (just words, that became things) Summery, fluttery, everlasting electronica that is now utterly ubiquitous. Endless endless endless. “Eur-up, end-less,” as Kraftwerk said. Fennesz has a lot to answer for; in accommodating the Beach Boys and guitar twang and Summer itself into the icy wastes of electronica he’s opened up all kinds of portals; he’s responsible for all those photo filters, he’s the curse of photographical archaeology (this decade known only as the decade that no one knew which decade it was). Endless Summer was a spell that bewitched a generation; maybe all generations, and now Bécs has come along to end things, to cast-off that spell by playing just one last time…

It won’t work, of course. This is a powerful album but it’s not that powerful. Other spells have caught up, tried to outlast, outdo when the very idea of lasting has been obliterated. Against all this (mere) music, The Summer ™ is still Endless ™. Your days are better than my days. As pictures of poverty and riots get Retrica’d out of recognition, get added to photo albums and shared and displayed and made into memes and (of course) solarized, they have lost meaning and lost hope, replaced by these systemic emotional responses that pin you back. This album tries to intercede, but its playing a game against itself. The emotional aggregates are winning, as perhaps they should. This album makes you feel but it spreads the feelings on top, like Rasperry Curd (bought from a simulacrum of a farmer’s market); it doesn’t want you to try too hard.

If that seems like a criticism it isn’t meant as one. I’ve played it a lot, it works as an album (the second track, “The Liar,” slightly gets in the way to be honest, though given its name this might be deliberate) and it beautifully, artificially, raises the stakes of any scene, much like Michael Nyman’s music in Peter Greenaway films. It makes everything look Instagrammed and it restates Fennesz as the originator of this, even dares us to blame him for everything we don’t like about what came afterwards. All those bands from Brooklyn, all those sunglasses, that fucking tie-dye. It makes everything out there look like that one perfect moment, that one special day.

The last track, “Paroles,” is the least blurred and seems to suggest an apology of sorts; there is fuzz but this fuzz is clinging on for dear life, it’s not obliterating. Here the notes are clear, with just the odd abstract bit of static (no longer King) attempting to distract us from them. These notes are allowed to exist in a way we couldn’t have considered back in 2001, when shoegazing was a sweet memory of nothing in particular, maybe even a kind of dead-end. Back then shoegazing needed to be resurrected because if it wasn’t worth resurrecting it might be regarded as a bit, well, pointless and the people who really bought into Fennesz (I more or less include myself in that sloppy group) didn’t need anyone telling them their lives were pointless. We’d seen the baby boomers fuck it all up; so we invented rave and shoegaze – Fennesz added them and became eternal. We made joy a thing that landed. And for those of us who didn’t dance (not me; I danced my bollocks off, to no great effect) there were shoes to gaze at.

Be careful of this album. It isn’t suitable for children. It’s not a cure; it’s part of the problem. It’s a great problem. I look out the window and it is Summer ™ and the End is here and far away.


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