Fenn O’Berg – In Stereo (Editions Mego) 2LP
In Stereo is the long-awaited third album from the trio of Christian Fennesz, Jim O’Rourke and Peter “Pita” Rehberg. Like The Magic Sound of Fenn O’Berg (1999) and The Return of Fenn O’Berg (2002), this is an uncompromising work of hardcore digital electronica. However, whereas the trio’s first two albums compiled edited versions of live improvisations, In Stereo was created 100% studio-side.
This fact may suggest that the new album takes a more premeditated approach than its predecessors did but any hints of compositional rigour will not be immediately apparent to the casual listener. Initially, In Stereo sounds like just the kind of three-way laptop cluster-fuck you might expect – high on harsh, glitch-ridden textures and chaotic granular synthesis manoeuvres.
However, after repeated listens, you’ll find the album revealing a genuinely epic sense of drama. The mood throughout is darkly cinematic – murky soundscapes are shot-through with intense digital clarity. Fans of Black to Comm’s superb Alphabet 1968 are bound to find something to enjoy here.
Even at its most patently bonkers, In Stereo never descends into aimless fidgeting. Take “VI”, for instance (the tracks are named with Roman numerals but presented out of sequence). It begins as a barrage of sliced-up digital detritus, which purposefully gives way to a passage of tense contemplation. The results are absolutely phenomenal – attentive listeners may find themselves compelled to stand up and applaud.
In Stereo marks a great start to 2010 for Pita’s Editions Mego label. The vinyl seems to gone out of print before the arrival of its March 5th release date but you should be able to order a copy if you shop around. There will also be a slightly abridged CD version, which you can still pre-order from Mego.