Reviewers love when Christian Fennesz creates new music, because it allows them to bombard you with the litany of descriptive words they learnt in their first year creative writing subject at university. And whilst I don't usually endorse this method of reviewing, when it comes to Fennesz it's impossible to resist grabbing a thesaurus and poring through it trying to find the words to describe the beauty he creates. Over the years this merchant of glitch has painted imperfect soundscapes that somehow bleed together to form stunning vistas of noise, or that seemingly break through their dark, evil surroundings to explode in to a world of infallible happiness. Endless Summer was a crowning achievement, if you've never heard the song or the record ensure that you treat your ears immediately. It's through appreciation of past achievements that allow us to view AUN in it's full light, and recognise the ability and adaptive nature of the artist.
AUN is a soundtrack to a film that bears the same title, described as 'The Beginning and the End of All Things'. I challenge you to watch the film and read some descriptions of the theme and come away with a concrete view of what it is actually about. The best description I can infer is that the film is to be viewed as an artwork, and addresses the issue of man's relationship with nature. Man is no longer blessed with the ability to feel, and 'can only believe in what can be seen' (taken from http://www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com/en/films/aun-the-beginning-and-the-end-of-all-things/). This seemingly puts Christian Fennesz in a difficult bind. His method of musical creation is based on an ability to evoke emotional responses, deeper than just a fleeting sense of happiness or joy or sadness, in the listener. Fennesz can create a mood, and subtly alter it through the course of a song, resulting in an entirely sensual experience for the listener. Initially, listening to the music away from the film, it does at times feel sterile and slightly opaque. However even just a short perusal of the trailer for the film and you see how perfectly he manages to capture moods and emotions that are inherently present in scenes but are not being portrayed or seemingly felt by the actors. He becomes a master of expression.
Being a film soundtrack, unless you're Clint Mansell, there is always going to be an element missing from the music. Fennesz over the course of his career, and especially the last 5 or so years, has developed the ability to create a lot out of very little. On AUN though, at times you feel short changed when you experience the music without the aid of the visual sense. The emotions and feelings are created, but not reinforced. On Sekai, for example, you're immediately greeted with a more upbeat sounding electrical noise, a higher string section, and it breeds a small feeling of distant hope. However with no platform to base this hope on, or no real sense of dread or loss carried over from the previous 3 songs, it feels misplaced and undeveloped. Mori is bleaker, conjuring up an image of impending doom and reminds me of some of the darker work that Atticus Rose and Trent Reznor created for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
It's as you proceed deeper in to the record that you start becoming engulfed by it, you can feel Fennesz mustering the darkness around you. AUN40 begins slowly, more comfortably, it even gradually builds a sense of security. With the slightest of movements at around 2:35, the song turns dramatically. It deepens to a sinister, dread-filled cave that begins to feel endless. In almost the same movement, Nemuru assists your mind, props you back up. It doesn't instill hope to to speak, it provides respite, a chance to gather yourself before the sadness of Himstu washes over you.
On the second half of AUN, Fennesz rarely allows you to dwell. Experiences are initiated but not often are they allowed the room realise their full impact. The emotions aren't ranging from negative to positive, you spend a lot of time in the darkness, but his skill is in the manufacturing and slight manipulation of emotions. You'll feel dread, then pure sadness, then fear, then disappointment. AUN80 for example doesn't settle on a theme or a thought, it sprawls along as if it is living on its final breath, lurching from step to step until it finally passes and leads in to the slightly beautiful Nympha, which could be easily described as a funeral celebration for the lost soul in AUN80.
Fennesz's collaboration with Sakamoto on Cendre must also be noted, for there are 3 songs on this release that are borrowed from that one. The contrast, especially on Haru and Trace, of the bleakness created by Fennesz and the lighter, brighter piano of Sakamoto, feels slighty out of place on this release. Whilst they are lovely songs that serve to break up the almost post-apocolyptic feel of the soundtrack, they don't add to the mood or provide any kind of background or story. I may be wrong however, I haven't seen the entire film, they may perfectly compliment a visual stimulus.
8/10. Despite the lack of the visual medium that Fennesz has clearly based his music on for this project, it is still a beautiful creation in its own right. It has it's own identity outside of the film, and without the pictures getting in the way and messing up the message the experience is undiluted.
Best Tracks: AUN40, Mori, Nympha