Editions Mego – eMego016X

22nd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Context counts for a lot, particularly when evaluating works which represent the time in which they originated. This is no more true than when it comes to evaluating this reissue of Christian Fennesz’ Hotel Paral.lel, originally released in 1997.

For some of us – those of a certain age – 1997 seems recent. But then, there will be great swathes of the population who are actively listening to music -and who are fill-fledged adults, many with children of their own now – who weren’t even born in 1997. Stop and consider that for a moment. 1997 was twenty-five years ago. A quarter of a century.

Cast your mind back twenty-five years, if you can, and try to recall the musical landscape, what you were listening to, what was fresh and exciting, new and emerging. And cast your mind back, if you can, simply to life as it was back in 1997. Pre-millennium tension was beginning to slowly build around the end of days, and the millennium bug that would bring all technology to a halt. Nu-Metal was only just breaking, with the release of Limp Bizkit’s debut, Three Dollar Bill, Y’All. It was the year of The Prodigy’s The Fat of the Land and Portishead’s debut, as well as Radiohead’s OK Computer. It was also the year of Princess Diana’s death and here in the UK, there was a sense of hope as Labour won the election, deposing the Conservatives after eighteen years in power.

But it’s also worth remembering just how far technology has come in twenty-five years. As the liner notes remind us, Hotel Paral.lel was ‘recorded just before mobile computing devices became omnipresent’, and that ‘it was an investigation into the sonic possibilities residing in guitar based digital music. Sz launches the career with a constantly buzzing sound that resembles a fax machine encountering a G3 laptop for the first time, realising the game is up. ‘Nebenraum’ is the first foray into the style for which one would attribute to Fennesz. A glacial drone unexpectedly morphs into a gorgeous melody and microscopic groove. Adding pulse and melody was hearsay in the radical end of experimental music up until this point and with this single gesture, everything changed, for everyone.’

It seems hard to comprehend now, but Christian Fennesz’ debut full-length release really wasn’t so much ground-breaking as earth-shattering – only it wasn’t apparent at the time, and no-one was really paying attention anyway. There was a 2007 remaster to mark the album’s tenth anniversary, but this version isn’t only re-remastered buy boasts a bonus three tracks.

Listening to Hotel Paral.lel with the distance of time and the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear just how out of time it was. It’s a disturbing mess of static fizz, crackles, and hissing, clanks and rumbles, thuds and glitches. It’s an assemblage of dark ambient grating and griding, droning and grumbling., but then ‘Fa’ is more a gritty slab of bouncing heavyweight death disco: it’s got beats, it’s got groove, but it’s got some grainy bite to it.

If ‘industrial’ had become synonymous with Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, Hotel Paral.lel was a reminder – for those paying attention – of the roots of the genre, which lay with Throbbing Gristle and early adopters of emerging Technology like Cabaret Voltaire. And on Hotel Paral.lel, Fennesz exploits the latest emerging technologies to conjure alien soundscapes and strange forms.

There are moments, such as the closing couple of minutes of ‘Nebenraum’ which are surprisingly and incongruously mellow and melodic, in contrast to the warping, circuit-splintering dissonance of ‘Zeug’, one of a number of incredibly short experimental pieces.

Hotel Paral.lel also serves as a reminder that experimental is not a negative trait or a critical dismissal: without experimentation there is no progress, and in ‘97, Fennesz really was flying in the face not only of popular opinion, but, well everything. Now, of course, it doesn’t sound too radical, sonically or in terms of objectives. It does, however sound difficult, gnarly. It sounds dark. And it’s a beast.

AA

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Comments
  1. […] Fennesz – Hotel Paral.lel (2022 remaster) (via Aural Aggravation) […]

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