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Music Review: Christian Fennesz – AUN: The Beginning and the End of All Things Soundtrack

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Composer Christian Fennesz has worked with some of the greatest names in modern music since he began recording in the early ’90s. A few of these include Jim O’Rourke, David Sylvian, Ryuchi Sakomoto, and Sparklehorse, among others. His latest release is the soundtrack to what sounds like a fascinating film; AUN: The Beginning and the End of All Things. The movie was written and directed by the Austrian filmmaker Edgar Honetschlager, with production help from various Tokyo interests. In describing it, the director states: “The film focuses on the dichotomy of man/nature and envisions a future world where life will be nothing but sensual.”

“Sensual” is the key word in describing Christian Fennesz’s soundtrack. As I have not yet seen the film itself, I cannot say whether the director achieved his goals or not. What I can say however is that the music Christian composed for it is some of the finest of his career. As a composer, Christian Fennesz works with what he calls “guitar/laptop music.” For the listener, that equates to some fascinating guitar textures underneath multiple layers of effects.

The set opens with “Koe,” a discreetly alluring piece, full of great washes of sound. “Aware,” follows, and is one of the most mysterious tracks of the collection. The soundbeds are lush, and are enlivened by a minimalist piano melody. This is an approach that reappears throughout the course of the record, most especially on “Trace” and “Mori.” The finest example of this approach is “Nympha,” in which the lone piano notes are joined by the most overt use of “Japanese” instrumentation, in this case that of the koto.

There is also a very prevalent use of ambient tones, which I imagine work very well in the context of the film. As a fan of the genre, I found these pieces to be the most satisfying of the set. “Euclides” marks the first appearance of this style, but there are many more. I would consider “Sasazuka,” “Himitsu,” and “Shinu” to be shining examples as well.

The most intriguing pieces combine various elements to produce compositions of a more exotic flavor. “Sekai” is one example, as are “AUN40,” and “AUN80.” All three share a moody, introspective feel, as well as an atmosphere of the unusual. The record closes with “Hikari,” which reflects the ambience that infuses so much of the record, suggesting that perhaps a peaceful conclusion has been reached after all.

Christian Fennesz’s music has been compared to that of Robert Fripp & Brian Eno collaborations such as No Pussyfooting and Evening Star. It is a valid equation, but then again practically everything in the electro-acoustic field could be traced back to Fripp, Eno, and their precursors.

As AUN: The Beginning and the End of All Things has not received wide exposure yet, I can only surmise as to how well Christian Fennesz’s music works within the context of the movie. What I can though is that this soundtrack is a brilliant example of electro-acoustic music, and one that I will be listening to many times to come.

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About Greg Barbrick