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Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Rhythmic Ambient MP3s (Fiehn & Hess)

For their work as a duo, Stephen Fiehn is credited with “guitar/electronics” and Steven Hess with “drums/vibraphone/electronics.” Neither attribution explains what seems like rain or insect noise on “Holding,” the first of two tracks that comprise the duo’s self-titled debut — but such is the near silence of the piece that what sounds like elements of the real world could just be digital effluvia. That debut is titled Work, as is the duo; the term suggests toil, energy, and effort, though the music espouses repose, languor, and nuance. Of course, for two individuals it may be a serious effort to produce such quiet sounds in tandem, to collaborate on something that comes across as deeply private and personal.

What is the sound, you wonder, of two people meditating? According to “Holding” (MP3), it is lightly percussive progressions that subtly alter as time passes, the snail’s-pace rhythm charting a course through gentle, high-pitched noises. On “Ideal Form” (MP3), the EP’s other track, the more treble-register sounds originate as rhythm, a gentle flow that is slowly subsumed by warm drones and distant throbbing. These both are beautiful, crystalline pieces, their fragility belying the (in retrospect) significant effort that must have gone into not only their planning and recording, but furthermore the development of the sympathetic performance practice that yielded them. More details at the releasing netlabel, con-v.org.

More on Fiehn at myspace.com/stepstep2, and on Hess at myspace.com/s_hess. Fiehn and Hess are both members, along with Joshua Convey, of the Chicago-based act Fessenden (myspace.com/fessendenmusic).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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