Relentlessly tidal, Fennesz’s Black Sea shifts subtly between bluster and stillness, at times growing so faint as to almost disappear completely. The eponymous opener kicks down the door with an extended burst of harsh, busily layered noise before relaxing into a 10-minute sprawl, where electronic fiddling and acoustic guitar strums float disconnectedly over a fuzzy soundscape. This sets a clear tone for the rest of the album: languid, drawn out ambiance punctuated by the occasional burst of nearly startling noise. Still, the album’s ascents from quiet to loud are so gradual that there’s always time to acclimate.
Black Sea is a headphone album, packed with fragile, briefly presented sounds that seem in constant danger of escaping unheard. “Saffron Revolution” opens with a nearly indescribable sound effect—like a coin rolling down a pipe—that slowly disappears behind a building layer of patchwork sound, while “Glide” pulses with a muffled mechanical ringing that echoes beneath a dull synth roar. “The Colour of Three” spends more than six minutes building up a blaring wall of the same thick and scratchy synth, which suddenly gives way to an emptiness occupied only by sparsely ringing chimes—a ghostly touch that sounds like something out of an old Japanese horror film.
Yet even with all these subtle touches, Black Sea is the kind of album that you can’t help but absorb passively, in sweeping waves that push the sound into the background through their own endless repetition. Overall, there isn’t anything especially attention-grabbing here, and Fennesz’s favored motif—lacquering over his most interesting bits of sound with dense layers of fuzz—is deadening. The music becomes almost inconsequential at times, with the constant synth din practically disappearing by virtue of its sameness. At other times outright silence takes over, for what feels like minutes at a time, an effect that’s ultimately fitting for an album that seems bent on evading our attention.