Two plays on, Cendre still sounded like eleven tracks of elegaic, late night piano overlaying a quiet electronic burble, with little variation in sound, mood or tempo. The combination on paper seemed to be perfect. Christian Fennesz’s back catalogue is a pretty varied one, and it’s often collaborative projects that bring out the best in him. The only Ryuichi Sakamoto music I’d heard outside of his well-known work with David Sylvian and the Yellow Magic Orchestra was the stuff he did with Carsten Nicolai on Raster-Noton which boded well for this new partnership. And yet it stubbornly refused to rise above the pleasantly mediocre.
But then I’d play it again. And again. Cendre made perfect sense a few nights ago when I arrived home in the early hours, a little lit up, and gave it a spin. As the eastern sky began to become streaked with lines of pale blue, the album seemed the perfect, still and melancholy soundtrack to a midsummer’s dawn. The piano melodies are Satie-esque – “Kuni” sounds like it is about to turn into “Three Gymnopedies”. They hog the foreground, and sometimes obscure the interestingly treated guitar lines that grumble along behind them. Only the closing track, “Abyss”, has any urgency about it. It’s the kind of record that reveals its subtleties slowly, but eventually has the listener hooked. The reviewer in this month’s Wire complained that the album sounds a little empty. That was also my first impression. Cendre repays patience, though. It is a record entirely without ostentation, but one with a gradually revealed, beguiling, melancholic charm.