An 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper tacked to the entrance doors: tonight, Fennesz, sold out. The majority of people that would be attending already sat comfortably in their seats well before Scant Intone and Souns took the stage. The two opened the evenings events on what would only be their second real-time collaboration. Maybe practice doesn’t make perfect as these guys were able to formulate a fine set filled with miniature atonal crescendos, subdued skitter and interwoven sampling–everything played at a comfortable medium-low (sometimes it’s nice not getting your ears blasted off). The sampling ranged from environmental sounds and indiscernible murmuring to more industrial elements. Occasionally a cheesy drum beat slipped through, though never outstaying its welcome. Impressively the duo were able to restrain their sound to a fog of subdued concrète clusters, ever dynamic and interesting. A fine display of what Vancouver’s subtler side of experimental muzak has to offer.
After a short intermission, the main act was announced. Not wasting any time Christian Fennesz dove into his first number, a heavy slice of electronica and fragmented guitar. Fennesz is not your average lap-top gawking purveyor of electro-glitch soundscaping. The man actually plays a guitar, live, through an actual guitar amp. All the while digitally deconstructed white noise flows from his computer. It’s all quite remarkable to see live and the opening half did not disappoint. As the set rolled on, however, claustrophobia started to settle in. What made Fennesz’s impeccable 2008 release, Black Sea, so good was its sense of space. And that space seemed to be filled in on this particular night. Despite this fact, the heat–did I mention that the Front has a serious lack of ventilation problem?–and the sets particularly sour-note ending of Fennesz walking off after his last song, disgruntled over the sound tech’s overly intrusive use of compression, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t leave satisfied.
To conclude, a brief word on Politics.
It is but a fact that among all communities, large and small, there will always exist a palpable level of bureaucracy. Kris Charlton, a man who has facilitated past Vancouver performances of such talents as Barn Owl, Oneida, Wooden Shijps, Nadja and much, much more, was robbed of the opportunity to produce what would have been one of his most memorable productions. I’m talking of course, about Christian Fennesz, who was nearly secured as Kris’s next headliner until The Front eventually (not naming names) got wise to Fennesz’s interest in visiting Vancouver. What ensued next were a series of unanswered emails that eventually left Kris out of the equation all together. This is only one side of the coin, and yes, Kris is a friend of mine. So, I’ll grant the amount of time it takes for you to finish reading this line to impart your judgments about favoritism and biases upon me. In any regard this needed to be addressed as it is clear to me that an injustice has occurred. For now, let us take a moment and revel in the fact that great musicians, international or otherwise, still desire the opportunity to visit our fine city. For that we should all be grateful.