On (Reworked by Fennesz) – Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not

On (Reworked by Fennesz) - Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not

On (Reworked by Fennesz) - Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not

On is the duo of experimental percussionist Steven Hess and experimental guitarist Sylvain Chauveau. For previous releases, they’ve recorded sessions of improvisation together and then passed the tapes on to another experimental musician to work up as they please. With Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not, that approach hasn’t changed, but this time laptop guitarist Fennesz, who has played live with the duo in the past, was given complete control over shaping the end-product.

The end product stabilizes quickly at a longs-standing simmer, with no recognizable guitar, excepting some gently undulating feedback. Hess operates more a percussionist than as a drummer here, and over half the time his contributions seem absent, unless he’s sitting there bowing a cymbal, which he very well could be. Opening track “The Inconsolable Polymath” begins with feedback, a filtered rotary-sounding loop, and some Playthroughs-style guitar sine waves, and proceeds to hold the pattern for 5 straight minutes. It rearranges the idiom “a watched pot never boils” into the maxim “never watch a boiling pot”, but the feeling of waiting for something to happen that never quite happens stays the same. Four other tracks proceed in similar fashion, juxtaposing modern avant-gardisms in seemingly haphazard ways, buzzing, worming, and bleeping like a spilled bottle of molasses. Everybody likes to smell their own shit from time to time, but making other people smell it is a bit sadistic and self-important. I can tell you from experience, Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not stinks.

Long-form music which is so bluntly stable, with little movement or dynamics, should at least be interesting to the listener in some other way. The problem with this project is that the majority of the time we really have no idea who is making what sound or why. A little bit more transparency in the process would go a long way toward understanding why it needed to be reworked by an outside individual in the first place. Music with no express intention is all fine and good, but music with no express effect is music for the musician, not for the listener. This is very heady material, and while some people do get off on the pure intensity of drone music, this feels more like an endurance test of too few ideas that stretch on for way too long. Worse, it’s done by guys who have all produced breathtaking music in the past. It has the sound of self-important musicians falling back on their artistic reputations to deliver half-cooked indulgences. We’ve heard all these sounds before, and quite frankly, they are boring. Flat, masturbatory music made by big names is still flat, masturbatory music. It’s just more likely that it will be given the benefit of the doubt. Despite the reputable names behind it, Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not should have just stayed on these artists’ hard drives.

On

Fennesz

Type Records