Published Mar 26, 2019Ambient recordings are seldom referred to as powerful. Impactful, sure, perhaps even emotional, but more often than not, what makes the genre so resonant is its subtlety. It delivers a striking contrast — to other music and to the hectic world around us.
Christian Fennesz has long tested that assumption. This is partly due to his chosen instruments (guitars fed through electronic gadgetry are known to pack a punch). More than that though, there is a coarseness to the Austrian composer's work that sets him apart. On Agora, his seventh full-length album and first since 2014, Fennesz is at his most abrasive.
We first heard about the new disc in January; promotional materials explained that Agora was produced without access to a proper studio. Confined to a single room in his apartment, he had to rely on less equipment than usual and produce the whole thing with headphones.
As a result, the album is somewhat lacking in range, but otherwise, Agora offers no evidence of compromise. If anything, Fennesz turned that bit of adversity into artistic license. Turned up loud, Agora is something close to overwhelming. The scale of these four long-form pieces is intimidating. To say that this album fills a room is to understate its — again, power — entirely.
Taken in at a moderate volume, the album is easier to consume, but no less dominating. This is about as far from background music as it is possible for an ambient recording to be. (Touch)