Boomkat Product Review:
Originally released in 2007, 'Cendre' was the second collaboration between Austrian sound artist Christian Fennesz and Japanese legend Ryuichi Sakamoto. Fourteen years later, it still sounds icy, delicate and striking in its cool, calm elegance.
The album was recorded between 2004 and 2006; Fennesz used guitar and laptop in Vienna, and Sakamoto recorded piano and laptop in New York City. The duo sent recordings back and forth, with one artist drafting a starting point and the other working over the top, developing themes as songs emerged from the ether. When the album became a reality, the duo met in person to work on the final mix. This process is more common now (especially after 2020), but at the time felt faintly novel. It worked for Sakamoto and Fennesz though, their relative detachment gives the record a sculpted feeling that focuses the delicacy of Sakamoto's playing into Fennesz's restraint.
While on many of his albums, Fennesz centers the interplay between dynamics (loud and quiet, clean and distorted), there's a subtlety to "Cendre" that feels respectful and fitting. Sakamoto's Satie-like piano parts would be overwhelmed by too much process, so the washing ambience of tracks like 'Haru' and 'Amorph' and the inverted gaseous noise of 'Trace' and 'Kuni' feels like a conscious effort from Fennesz to allow Sakamoto's playing pride of place. The result is an ambient lullaby that's been heavily imitated over the last decade plus, but rarely matched.