Fennesz, Vienna Rhiz, 22 May 2008

The 10th birthday celebrations continue at the Rhiz until the end of May. Last Thursday saw one of the enduring heroes of Viennese electronica, Christian Fennesz, give a rare home town concert as part of those celebrations.

As J. said, watching someone play at the Rhiz is almost like watching them play in your living room. Both in terms of the size of the physical space and the atmosphere the place instils, there’s something about the Rhiz that inspires great loyalty and affection. In this case, Fennesz’s performance was highly unassuming yet strangely moving. No doubt this emotional response was due in part to the fact that, unlike most other people working in the field of electronic music, Fennesz actually plays an instrument, and plays it well. Yes, I retain for the most part a preference for instrumental virtuosity over the point-and-click and knob-twiddling approaches; sue me.

What was so great about Fennesz, however, was the way he combined these two approaches and made the resulting whole sound utterly right and natural. Rich and animated, his silvery guitar tones floated over pulsating drones and disorientating sub-bass frequencies. Playing solo and then in tandem with Vienna DJ Dieter Kovacic (dieb13), Fennesz showed that the electric guitar could be recontextualised without losing any of the visceral pleasure associated with its deployment as a rock instrument.

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