Dutch label Konkurrent’s In the Fishtank series has an elegantly simple premise. Give a couple of acts two days studio time to use as they see fit and hope that the results are fruitful. It’s often the case that the less obvious the collaboration, the more interesting the results. That’s definitely true of this, the 15th of the series. Both Mark Linkous and Christian Fennesz are serial collaborators anyway – Linkous with various guests on his Sparklehorse LPs and Fennesz with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jim O’Rourke, David Sylvian and others.
There’s some exceptional music on this album, and nothing that sounds like it was thrown together in the last half hour. It covers a wide range of ground, but sounds totally cohesive – just like a proper album!
Things begin in downbeat, almost depressing fashion, with “Music Box of Snakes”, a long, elegaic piece that begins with music box, cello and a wheezy, clapped-out Wurlitzer, develops with majestic strings and ends in decay with the clicks and buzzes of tiny scuttling creatures feeding on its corpse. Both “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “If My Heart” incorporate Linkous’s fragile vocal. On the former, the title is repeated like a mantra, swathed in effects, and decorated with cobwebs of sound that are redolent of Pygmalion era Slowdive. The latter is equally brittle, washed with gentle feedback drone and treated guitar. In between them, “Sahi-Hulud” is a combination of metallic, insectoid aliens and a spacey six-string screech.
The epic “NC Bongo Buddy”, a terrific journey through deep drones, fuzz guitar, disintegrating amps, distortion and empty spaces, is sandwiched between two eponymous guitar pieces. Mark Linkous’s is an American Primitive type instrumental, with low key, atmospheric accompaniment. Christian Fennesz’s is a brief, unadorned acoustic coda.
That these two could make such a remarkable album in just two days proves that they are on the same musical wavelength. I hope that this collaboration won’t be their last.
1 Music Box Of Snakes (9:46)
2 Goodnight Sweetheart (5:24)
3 Sahi-Hulud (2:36)
4 If My Heart (5:13)
5 Mark’s Guitar Piece (4:27)
6 NC Bongo Buddy (11:24)
7 Christian’s Guitar Piece (1:28)