The ten-minute title track gets the album underway, opening tentatively with flickers of noise and digital debris crackling like fireworks in the distance. Soon a flood of symphonic guitar and electronics overwhelms the mix and we’re reintroduced to the signature sound world that’s unique to this man’s music – he’s one of the most imitated electronic artists out there, and yet you can always pick out the real thing from a line-up of clones.
Not resting on his laurels, before ‘Black Sea’ is even three minutes in, the magnitude shrinks down to a simple duet between oscillating tones and brittle acoustic guitar plucks. It’s from here that the piece begins to swell up with majestic, incredibly warm sustains and scratchy textural details – the whole composition feels like a reintroduction to the various facets of the Fennesz sound. Next comes the first of two collaborative pieces (although it should be pointed out that this one isn’t available on the vinyl edition – and while we’re on the subject, nor is the ambient miniature ‘Vacuum’ encountered towards the end of the CD and digital tracklists): ‘The Colour Of Three’ features Anthony Pateras (a veteran of Editions Mego and Sirr), who supplies some nicely clanking prepared piano tones, placing emphasis on the instrument as a percussive device rather than a string instrument. Despite this augmented instrumental range we’re still in familiar territory thanks to Fennesz’s transcendent digital eruptions and gloriously rich sound designs. ‘Perfume For Winter’ is a more restrained affair, filled with contemplative acoustic figures and abrupt organ-driven chord changes. We get our first real taste of explicit melody here, reminiscent of Endless Summer’s most approachable tracks. Importantly though, there are no overt attempts to retrace footsteps back to that classic album, and Black Sea sounds vehemently like a step forwards for Fennesz. This sense of progression is underlined by the spine-tinglingly wonderful ‘Glide’, a duet with Rosy Parlane which takes Fennesz’s wall of sound into the stratosphere, sounding like an unearthly orchestra. The music itself matches the increased magnitude: if Endless Summer was a digitisation and abstraction of The Beach Boys, ‘Glide’ could be said to apply the same transformative techniques to more classically-geared sounds – there’s an undercurrent of elegiac romanticism that might reasonably be compared to fellow notable Austrian, Gustav Mahler, specifically the well-known fourth movement of his 5th Symphony (once famously plundered by Robert Lippok for his Open/Close/Open release on Raster Noton). After the quietly glistening, chime-like tones of ‘Glass Ceiling’ comes previous single and album finale ‘Saffron Revolution’, which is a suitably grand closing gesture, stretching out a single, euphoric multi-layered chord across much of its duration before dissipating away into a pattern of delayed string plucks. Black Sea is far and away one of the year’s most beautiful records, both in terms of the music itself and the sheer iridescence of the electronic sound harnessed within. Very highly recommended indeed. – Boomkat review
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