Hearing Austria’s Christian Fennesz in the same breath as Britain’s King Midas Sound is an exercise in world-building. King Midas Sound, a dub supergroup featuring Kevin Martin (better known as the Bug), Roger Robinson, and Kiki Hitomi, having launched a collaboration project that is to span four albums, brought ambient scion Fennesz onboard for their first one. The resulting track, “Waves”, bears the mark of the Austrian moreso than that of the Brits, but the album—titled Edition One—as a concept promises to mediate on class in electronic music in a novel way.
Though he is the transient party in this partnership, Fennesz marks “Waves” to a greater extent than does King Midas Sound. The shimmering delay and reverb under which a catchy pop melody glistens that mark a Fennesz track are all there, less so King Midas Sound’s prominent backbeat and polyrhythmic experimentation. “Waves” amounts a genre switch for Fennesz from ambient to dark ambient, incorporating more sweet harmonic interplay and less of King Midas Sound’s harsh, cold dub beatwork than one might expect.
This could be a missed opportunity. Ambient and dub are the sounds of different lives: ambient of Christian Fennesz’s lifetime of formal musical education and dub, to my ear the more overdetermined of the genres, of the Bug’s early exposure to the vast back-catalogue of a good record store, London’s underground reggaeton scene, and cheap soundsystems. “Waves” is excellent; it sounds like a Fennesz track in minor key. That the two artists recombine in more novel ways on the remainder of the release is my hope. Such an undertaking would establish more firmly what is shared and what is lost between two musicians whose tonal palette is the same but whose forms of life diverge.