On: Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not (Type)
On is the collaboration between composer Sylvain Chauveau and percussionist Steven Hess along with guitar and ambient noisehead Christian Fennesz. Chauveau has a discography brimming with intimate neoromanticism and ambient minimalism, while Hess has been skating the outer limits of percussion, collaborating with more experimental musicians such as Greg Davis, Mark Nelson (Pan•American, Labradford) and Robert Hampson (Main). The core duo’s music together as On is quite minimal and ambient, but it is not altogether restful. Fennesz’s reputation precedes him, of course, with a repertoire that includes some of the finest noise and ambient releases of the last 20 years. In their collaboration, there is a quiet turmoil that ripples through some of these 5 tracks, lending it a nervous energy that betrays its somewhat monochrome palette. At times Hess’s percussion becomes more overt, such as the quiet rolling boil of the title track which includes some regular drumming and piano accents, but in many instances the use of percussion is more textural and less rhythmic, such as the shimmering cymbal surface of “Blank Space” or the oblique overtones of “The Sound of White.” The latter is the clear standout of these 5 tracks, approaching 20 minutes and based around a delicate loop of tones – it’s understated yet almost overwhelmingly beautiful in its repetition. This is a grower of an album, never offering up anything too obvious. However, like so much good music, it creeps in quietly and takes hold, never letting go.