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Fennesz/Sakamoto cendre Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

'cendre' is a sure bet for lovers of sonic pulchritude.

Colin Buttimer 2007

This first, full-length recording by Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto is a hauntingly beautiful piece of work. It’s essentially a marriage of delicate acoustic piano played by Sakamoto and ambient textures courtesy of Fennesz. As such, cendre (all text is studiously rendered in lower-case) is a very different work from the duo’s first release, the 19 minute Sala Santa Cecilia (2005), on which it was nearly impossible to tell which performer contributed which sounds.

First piece, ''oto'', is ushered in on a gulf stream current. Sakamoto drops brief, pendant chords that fall into opaque depths like pebbles into a blue ocean. The texture of ''aware'' is grittier, as if gravel were being ground to dust in an iron cylinder. Sakamoto’s piano briefly merges and disappears into the mixture before clearly delineated upper notes appear like sudden stars in a night-sky, followed by reassuring chords suggestive of a comforting hand on the shoulder.

By the fourth piece, ''trace'', Sakamoto’s melodic approach is familiar, which makes his decision to sketch unresolved patterns all the more unsettling. Fennesz’s setting changes key as well and the mood becomes tremulous and uncertain. There’s a new-found eeriness that conveys a sense of disruption and loss. Sakamoto’s piano sounds treated, as though the hammers, Cage-like, have been muffled. His brief return to the initial melody towards the end only underlines the beauty of the composition.

In addition to the reference to Cage, it’s impossible not to relate Cendre to two other key piano and electronics recordings: Harold Budd and Brian Eno’s The Pearl and Sakamoto’s ongoing collaboration with German artist Alva Noto. cendre is ultimately closer to Budd and Eno’s work as no overt rhythms trouble or pierce Sakamoto’s playing. The amount of space the two performers allow each other is remarkable. Although the predominant initial impression is of Sakamoto’s piano, familiarity gradually reveals Fennesz’s contributions as equally rich and essential. cendre is a sure bet for lovers of sonic pulchritude.

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