You can call Christian Fennesz many things, and perfectionist might be one of them. While many of his musical peers pump out work on a consistent basic, it seems that Fennesz is the mad scientist working away until he finds just the right combination of sounds and textures. It's been almost 4 years since his last bonified release of Endless Summer, and in that time he's retreated into an even calmer place. Venice is 12 tracks and just over 45 minutes of an even more ambient state for him, and once again shows him stretching the limits of sounds from a guitar just about as far as anyone.
Truth be told, I'm one of those people who has never quite understood the sheer amount of critical acclaim that Fennesz has gotten in comparison to other artists doing somewhat similar work. Although his music is created from a unique palette that is obviously much of his own construction, I'm not one of those people who finds his work to be head and shoulders above that of other contemporary sonic sculptures. Along the same lines, I find Venice quite beautiful and downright stunning in places, yet simply good in others.
"Rivers Of Sound" opens the release with morphing, modulated tones that pulse errantly while high-pitched tones glint off the edges. The whole track is covered in a sort of hazy sepia-tone wash that makes the title feel quite fitting (or perhaps imagine the soundtrack to rusting metal as it's slowly reclaimed by the earth). "Chateau Rouge" flutters glitchy bursts of noise off a repeating melody that occasionally bursts into sheets of white noise, and while the track is definitely beautiful, it runs a bit long at nearly 7 minutes.
"Circassian" arrives as one of the best tracks on the entire release and perhaps one of the more straightforward tracks that Fennesz has ever done. Pulsing with heavy layers of filtered guitars, it sounds something like My Bloody Valentine playing a track from the bottom of the ocean floor. It's a hazy, heavy, trancelike track, and the track gets more powerful with each bass note shift. Although it sounds a bit out-of-place on the album, I also have to say that "Transit" (which features David Sylvian on vocals) is one of the more interesting tracks in his entire discography. Shrugging off the dense washes of sound found elsewhere on the album, the track ebbs and flows with a great exploration of space while the warm crooning vocals of Sylvian are matched and offset with hissy, dry crackles of brittle electronics.
In trying yet other things, the album trips up in places. "Laguna" is a solo guitar piece run through a crummy mic while the closing track of "The Stone Of Impermanence" closes the album with what is easily one of the least subtle tracks he's ever done. Opening with a heavy dirge of feedbacked guitar, the track slowly descends into minimal static, but it's nothing compared to earlier explorations on the release. In the end, I find myself wishing that he'd just go ahead and take his sounds into a even more 'pop' direction. The vocal track with Sylvian is something I wouldn't have expected, but works quite well, and even when he drops a filtered rhythm into his work for a short moment (on "The Point Of It All"), it takes it unexpected new directions that help the track stick out. I'll return to this one more often than Endless Summer, but I'm still waiting for him to completely blow my mind.