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iTunes Editors’ Notes

In a career that dates back to the '70s, Japanese pianist and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has crafted pop songs, film scores, and experimental works. Austrian guitarist Christian Fennesz is known for crafting dense soundscapes that can be peppered with glitches while being seductively melodic. They collaborated on the EP Sala Santa Cecilia and the full-length Cendre, and in 2011 they released the double album Flumina, which has an interesting genesis. While on tour in Japan, Sakamoto opened every concert with a different piece, each in a different key. Sakamoto was aware he'd later send recordings of these performances to Fennesz, who'd then add new material. The resulting tracks don’t vary a great deal; they're generally spare, spacious, and full of nuance. (Most of the pieces are consonant, but some, such as “0405,” display a delicate dissonance.) There's enough variation on Flumina to reward close listening; for instance, “0407” has subtly distorted piano tones that are a bit macabre. Little touches like that keep things interesting.

Customer Reviews

Headphone Commute Review

Listening to Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto is an experience of itself. Personally, I like to prepare for this two-hour sonic trip by opening up my windows, lighting up some mild incense, and brewing up some genmaicha (Japanese green tea with roasted brown rice). As the sunlight enters my room and gets trapped by the slowly rising smoke, the hot tea and the soft music gently flow through my body, warming up my extremities, essence and soul. The ambient textures lightly swirl in the air, as the tender piano keys sparsely land on the strings. The seemingly abstract atmosphere is delicate, soothing and a bit somber, perfectly balancing all other senses for curating a relaxing state of mind. At the end, the music is neither subjectively demanding nor is it boring – exactly as Brian Eno preferred it, when he defined his description of ambient music. If ambient music is intended to “induce calm and a space to think,” then Flumina delivers just that, with every flawless detail.

The twenty four tracks on this double disc album are titled after twenty four days, from March 18 to April 29th, during which Ryuichi Sakamoto recorded his piano compositions while touring in Japan. Prior to the performance, Sakamoto would semi-improvise a new piece in a different key, eventually covering all twenty four tonal steps of the scale. The pieces were then delivered to Christian Fennesz, who has layered additional synth pads, tiny electronic elements, and of course, his guitar. Sakamoto’s piano takes on the foreground and lead on each recording, while Fennesz’s buzzing hums fill in the spaces in between – something that the duo has perfect for this third collaboration together recorded for Touch.

Sakamoto’s melodies remain somewhat abstract, wondering and subtle, abandoning cohesive song structure while clearing the mind. Flumina happens to be a two-hour head cleaner prescribed by a doctor when one submits to complaints of overabundance. Definitely different from the duo’s recording at the Auditorium Parco della Music in Rome, Sala Santa Cecilia (Touch, 2005), and a further exploration in minimal sound than their celebrated Cendre (Touch, 2007), but nevertheless incredibly welcome collection of miniature vignettes. Over burdened with a torrent of new sounds and fatigued with over compressed post production? You must find the time for Flumina! For fans of Harold Budd, Steve Roach and Brian Eno. Doctor recommended. – HC, MD

Such a Present!

Flying in the face of- songs instead of albums, this is a breath of fresh air, something to behold!


Born: December 25, 1962 in Vienna, Austria

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Vienna-based guitarist Christian Fennesz is one of the city's many artists associated with the noted Editions Mego label, which releases mostly free-form ambient and experimental electronica. Similar in some respects to the work of Seefeel or Experimental Audio Research, Fennesz's six-string soundscapes are both darker than the former and more complex and intricate than the latter, combining dense, multi-layered sheets of treated guitar and synth with thin, odd-metered electronic percussion and engaging...
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