- by James Bray Release Date:2010-08-23 Label: Thrill Jockey
Knoxville is a live recording of a collaboration between musicians Christian Fennesz, David Daniell and Tony Buck. Christian Fennesz is a respected musical experimentalist who, for over 10 years, has been producing obscure approaches to music from behind banks of electronics and laptops. Although Fennesz may be the driving force behind Knoxville, Daniell (guitarist) and Buck (Drummer) are equally as important as this kind of progressive instrumental music tends be very inclusive and democratic. The average listener could well be alienated by Knoxville on the first listen; they would hear little but a discordant collage of sounds, a wash of atonality as six minute pieces of music seep into each other. However, once you get past your own antagonism towards this unfamiliar musical genre then you can accept it for what it is, an evocative and atmospheric noise.
The musicians play off each other and the tumbling cymbals, droning guitars and industrial electronics build naturally. It would be very easy and unfair to dismiss this music as art installation pretension or as ambient discordance; the music is simply more rhythmic than it is melodious. Fennesz and co's album is bereft of the restraints of typical song structures and, as a result, it is more meditative and spiritual than a lot of conventional music. They manage to create a diverse musical landscape and the abstraction of their composition allows the listener to interpret it in their own way. The music on Knoxville is suggestive of the rapture or the other plane that constitutes the musical experience. Don't be put off by all this talk of musical transcendentalism, this album isn't something that would appeal solely to record producers and musos; it's like a film soundtrack for your own personal film.
The approaches to music that we see on Knoxville are a necessary tonic to the protocols and conventions that exist in other established musical genres and the album a reminder of how fundamental music is to the human experience. The only thing I would say against this record is that this kind collaborative and intuitive music works much better in the live context; on a record it can seem too theoretical or contrived. In spite of this, Fennesz, Daniell and Buck should be pleased with their work and their innovative and refreshing take on music production.