When Christian Fennesz released 'Endless Summer' in 2001 it hit the electronica scene like a tsunami. Viewed beside the Austrian guitarist's flickering electro-acoustic haze, much of the work by his clicks n' cuts contemporaries sounded po-faced, cerebral and cold. With 'Endless Summer', Fennesz had invested the laptop with a soul hitherto reserved for 'real' instruments, and it was just what listeners had been waiting for. Now reissued on Editions Mego, 'Endless Summer' now wears its patina of crackle and hiss and sepia-tinged air of nostalgia like a badge: visually in Editions Mego boss Peter Rehberg new cover photographs of sinking golden sunsets, and aurally in the warm glow that still radiates from each track.
Following on from his sun-bleached treatments of Rolling Stones and Beach Boys songs, 'Endless Summer' operates more autonomously, entwining his own languid guitar melodies around swathes of digital processing. While his guitar figures owe something to the surf twang of The Sandals' 'The Endless Summer', the title tune to Bruce Brown's seminal 1964 surfing documentary, Fennesz' album looks more to the whole discourse of sea-and-surf inspired music, literally evoking the rolling waves with grainy, often turbulent fields of noise. Into this wash come ghosts of The Shadows, Dick Dale and Brian Wilson, governed by an aesthetic laid down by fifties exotica pioneers Les Baxter and Martin Denny.
Opener 'Made in Hong Kong' introduces much of what's to come, with jagged shards of static parting to allow rolling guitar chords to circle before being sliced and smudged by layers of distortion. The eight minute title track features a slower, almost bucolic guitar line throughout, with amplified fret squeaks battling streams of froth and feedback, ending in a crescendo of digital fuzz. Marimba notes join the blissed-out strings for 'Caecilia', synthesised crickets taking the place of Arthur Lyman's bird calls as a shimmering fog envelopes the tiki lounge. 'Before I Leave' offers a significant departure, with competing keyboard tones abruptly clipped and juxtaposed to create rapidly shifting rhythmic patterns, dancing like the play of light through a moving windscreen. 'Happy Audio', which closed the original album, patiently wears away an already crumbling loop of grey hiss, tearing its tiny grains into dust as a clearer, more tonal drone sweeps in. Two additional tracks complete the reissue, the lurching 'Badminton Girl' and the brief and understated 'Endless', which, while welcome, are hardly essential.
What's surprising re-hearing 'Endless Summer' is how prickly it now seems, and how this aspect of the album was overlooked upon its initial release. Perhaps Fennesz sounded particularly soft in 2001, or my ears have become blunted by the clearer tones and neater arrangements of today's producers, but the remastering by Denis Blackham does seem to emphasise the album's more pointillistic features. Having been left in the sun for six years, 'Endless Summer' now seems burnt and blistered: a thin layer of grit, like the pops in early Pole recordings, is audible throughout, and jagged moments, such as opens 'Made in Hong Kong', appear sharpened. With global warming now a concern known and shared by everyone, this excellent album today resonates with additional, more sinister meanings.
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Tracklist: Fennesz - Endless Summer 1 Made In Hong Kong
2 Endless Summer
3 A Year In A Minute
5 Got To Move On
7 Before I Leave
8 Happy Audio
9 Badminton Girl
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