TTW#16 - Fennesz - Szampler
Edition #1: cassette only - limited edition of 500 copies
Edition #2: promo edition. Cassette only – limited edition of 50 copies, alternate on-body: black cassette shell with gold print.
NOT FOR SALE
A: Part One - 28m23s
B: Part Two - 28m41s
“A collection of samples I made for my old Ensoniq EPS-16 Plus and ASR-10 samplers that I used between 1989 and 1996.” – Fennesz, 7 Jan 2010.
Illustration – SavX.
Here Christian Fennesz opens his magic box to reveal a plethora of samples from his old Ensoniq EPS-16 Plus and ASR-10 samplers which he used for his recordings from 1989 to 1996. For those of you familiar with his work, you will recognise some of them… from noise to dub and blasts of sheared electronics with his familiar patina, a palette of extraordinary energy and spirit is made manifest. An exciting and invigorating collection, with great wit and flair, this cassette is the perfect accompaniment to his wonderful albums.
Fennesz uses guitar and computer to create shimmering, swirling electronic sound of enormous range and complex musicality. “Imagine the electric guitar severed from cliché and all of its physical limitations, shaping a bold new musical language.” - (City Newspaper, USA). His lush and luminant compositions are anything but sterile computer experiments. They resemble sensitive, telescopic recordings of rainforest insect life or natural atmospheric occurrences, an inherent naturalism permeating each piece. Christian Fennesz is published by Touch Music. He lives and works in Vienna and Paris.
Limited to just 500 copies and already sold out at source, this latest edition from the Tapeworm cassette label is likely to be the most feverishly sought after to date. One of experimental electronic music's biggest names, Christian Fennesz has collected his library of samples (dating between 1989 and 1996) made for his old Ensoniq EPS-16 Plus and ASR-10 samplers. It probably goes without saying, but this is an amazing hour or so of music to trawl through. Any long-term fans of Fennesz's music will no doubt be enormously excited by the prospect of sifting through these fragmentary, sketched curiosities; you'll hear one or two snippets you'll recognise too, with some moments even presenting early prototypical snatches of Endless Summer (for instance, around eight minutes into the first side you might catch a fragment of 'A Year In A Minute'). Each side flows like a half-hour stream of disconnected miniatures, with a range of material that shifts between the kind of serrated noise that characterised his early Mego output, sketched guitar pieces, orchestral textures, piano interludes, fearsome drones and even some unexpected beat loops lifted from pop music. Incredibly, it still all sounds very specifically like Fennesz. You get the impression that you could lock this man up for a fortnight with a fourtrack recorder and a tuba, and the outcome would still exhibit the same set of sonic hallmarks that single out this Austrian's compositions and sound designs from those of his peers. Szampler presents a revelatory listening experience for the established Fennesz fan and by any measure represents a great set of from an artist who's clearly been ahead of his time for a good while now. Get one while you still can...
Other Music (US):
Listening to almost an hour of collected sampler bounce-downs might not sound like a particularly enjoyable experience, but then it really all depends on who's been tinkering with said samples, right? Emerging from the shadowy Tapeworm stable is this bumper package of off-cuts from the studio of one Christian Fennesz, a man who surely has enough fan drool to ensure this limited tape disappears into a dust-cloud within a matter of weeks. So yes, you DO have to have a cassette deck, but then the hipsters among you should be prepared regardless, as cassettes seem to be staging a comeback. In any case, the crumbly analogue format absolutely fits the release in this case – and with the collection being positioned over a period between 1989 and 1996, it was probably fitted up with tape in mind in the first place. Maybe. It is more fascinating than you might think to get a window into Fennesz's working mode; there are tiny fragments of songs you might recognize from his early career laid bare in their proto-song forms. Parts of the early EPs and albums are almost discernable, albeit in slightly less hectically edited iterations. These snippets, however, are markedly less interesting than the examples that didn't make the grade; rhythms and drum machine patterns, textures and half-songs. The complexity of these vignettes make Szampler far more than simply a reward for fanboys like myself; indeed there are moments here that are actually “playable”… who'd have thought? Recommended.
Aquarius Records (US):
This one probably needs very little in the way of description, a new archival release from guitar/laptop maestro Christian Fennesz, the latest from limited edition UK tape label Tapeworm, gathering up an eclectic collection of samples, which were used to create various recordings from 1989 until 1996. Which means maybe some of these will definitely sound familiar, even here in there yet to be Fennesz-ed state, offering a glimpse into the creative process for sure, but functioning fairly well as an album proper, albeit a somewhat fragmented album, short sonic selections, from murky glistening shimmer, to strange creaks and glitches, to warped acoustic guitar strum, to skipping stuttering electronic dronescapes, to psychedelic textural noise blowouts, to haunting loops, a dizzying array of sound and texture and timbre, many of these pieces already sounding practically finished (if it weren't for their brevity), gorgeous and hazy and melodic, mysterious and otherworldly, others simple, obvious building blocks for a bigger whole, the (perhaps hundreds of) fragments seamlessly sequenced into a constantly shifting, ever evolving, fractured and fantastical soundscape, that would also appeal to fans of Philip Jeck, with its weird sensation of skipping and glitching and recontextualization, the short sample format reminiscent of flitting from record to record, but this is obviously essential listening for Fennesz fans, a perfect companion for his records proper. LIMITED TO ONLY 500 COPIES. With cool Savage Pencil cover art!
Bubblegum Cage III (Canada):
A scrappy cassette release is not the sort of thing you’d normally expect from Fennesz – a man who, by habit, likes to digitally craft his solo albums over a period of several years. Clearly then, this extremely limited-edition cassette is something of an anomaly in Fennesz’s discography. As such, it casts light on a few of the lesser-known artefacts lurking in the dark corners his sound-world.
The concept seems to be that Fennesz has dumped all of the sounds that were sitting on his old Ensoniq hardware samplers onto a cassette tape and made the results available to the world. Said results work surprisingly well, on a musical level, though – Szampler comprises a series of murkily intimate sonic vignettes that have that distinct “reading under the covers” aura about them.
The real surprise, though, is how many recognizable snippets of Fennesz’s classic albums crop up here. One would have been forgiven for thinking that, following his debut EP Instrument, Fennesz abandoned hardware samplers completely, in favour of Mac laptops and Max/MSP. However, this release makes it clear that he has continued to run sounds through his samplers, presumably to utilize the signature low-resolution Ensoniq sound (which is perfect for his aesthetic). So, for example, the riff from Endless Summer‘s “A Year in a Minute” is clearly audible in this extract from near the beginning of side one (and it reappears, in a much less processed form, around the middle of side two).
This review should have come a lot earlier. Szampler arrived at Bubblegum Cage III’s palatial offices some weeks ago but busyness prevented this post from showing up until now. In the interim, Szampler seems to have gone waaay out of print. Sorry about that.
The Wire (UK):
I would not recognise Christian Fennesz's music if I heard it, but this tape, collecting some of the base material he used to create his compositions, is quite gear. These samples were created and employed from 1989-96, and they remind me a bit of the raw tapes Jim Thirlwell issued on the recent Limb CD. Really interesting stuff, although not always overtly musical. Like that matters.