Somnambule - Writing About Music

Fennesz Sakamoto ~ Sala Santa Cecilia

Sala Santa Cecilia comes packaged in Touch’s standard-sized card digipak, although the single track that it clothes runs to a mere 19 minutes. The text on the back cover rather grandly refers to the music as an overture. That term’s classical associations bear little examination, however its secondary meaning as an introductory initiative or first step forward proves more relevant. This is, after all, Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first recorded work together. The result leans much closer to the noisy soundscaping associated with Austrian glitch guitarist Fennesz than either the techno pop of Sakamoto’s work with Yellow Magic Orchestra or the understated melodicism of his piano performances.

Only guesses can be hazarded as to which sounds are contributed by which artist. My estimate would be that the higher, sustained choral/string-like sounds (reminiscent of the resonant warbling of Harmonia or pre-pop Kraftwerk) that appear midway through the piece, constitute some of Fennesz’s work. Much of the time, though, it’s impossible to tell as rusty rasps and clattering pebbles rub together and mutate. The result is a richly detailed palimpsest which it’s difficult to resist perceiving as a form of landscape created by the incision of a giant’s knife slicing through river, vale and forest. Factor in some form of benevolent industry and the picture is momentarily complete. There’s a degree of grandeur - attributable in part to the aforementioned sustained tones - which imparts a sense of determined and courageous perseverance. Such judgements might be accused of an inappropriate degree of musical anthropomorphism, but I’d wager that it’s this sense of architectural figuration that makes Fennesz’s solo work so popular and which raises it above his legion of digital peers. It may also be the quality which brought these two artists together.

Like a less ascetic AMM, digital formations such as this one – whether perceived as architecture, landscape or succession of morphing events - continue to fascinate and point to just how much potential territory remains to be mapped, of which this is one miniature, but richly detailed zone.
Colin Buttimer
July 2005
Published by the BBC