The presentation of Knoxville, a live collaborative effort between David Daniell, Tony Buck and Christian Fennesz, comes across almost like a vintage jazz record. The album is named both for the individual players and, perhaps less explicitly, the event at which it was recorded. And in a way, the live improvisational compositions are actually analogous to a more chaotic jazz recording. Yet of the trio, only Buck, of Australian outfit The Necks, actually plays jazz. The session players here are more experimentally minded. Christian Fennesz is best known for his glitchy ambient masterpieces such as Endless Summer and Black Sea, while guitarist David Daniell creates ambient soundscapes both as a solo artist and with San Agustin.
Across four tracks and 31 minutes, Fennesz, Daniell and Buck work together to build and set ablaze some particularly intense performances. These aren’t so much meditative and relaxing ambient pieces as they are noisy, almost industrial works that grow more powerful as each player opens up and escalates his respective contribution. As one might expect from Fennesz, the most well known of the three, there is a wide blanket of distortion lain atop each performance, lending the tracks a sort of shoegazer style texture. Yet Daniell and Buck each do their part in lending their own noisy devices, particularly Buck’s frantic percussion, metallic, harsh and explosive.
Given the improvisatory nature of the album, it’s difficult to separate out each track from the whole. The performance as a whole seems like one sprawling suite, and as a piece of music built on the dynamic interplay between the players, rather than structure or a stricter sense of composition, Knoxville is ultimately more about the magic that is created when the trio hits a particular sweet spot, and, more importantly, the journey toward that spot. But those numerous moments when they converge are sublime, from the final, powerful two minutes of “Heat from the Light,” to the serene and gorgeous build of “Antonia,” to the epic, head-spinning climax of “Diamond Mind.” On Knoxville, Christian Fennesz, David Daniell and Tony Buck create their share of magic, some of it pretty, some of it harsh, but all of it awe-inspiring and powerful.
Fennesz – Endless Summer
Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid – The Exchange Session Vol. 1
David Daniell – Coastal
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.