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Németh - Film

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Artist: Németh

Album: Film

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Apr. 10, 2008

It might be going too far to meditate at length on the title of this record, the first solo outing from Stefan Németh, the keyboard and electronics whiz best known for his work in Radian. It makes sense that there is – from the unmistakable shape to the six-piece cycle to the use of field recordings – a cinematic whiff to this one, since Németh composed most of these pieces for use in experimental shorts. But what I mean is that, even detached from their context, they seem to have a filmic quality.

The record sounds gorgeous, filled with nuance that’s scrubbed in order to emerge as cleanly as possible. Each track has a percussive backbone with dull bells and metal sounds usually garlanded with glitches, settling into the cool blue of the music’s atmosphere. Shapes emerge slowly, like Eno’s mid-1970s work reimagined for the ‘00s, the now ubiquitous hint of menace flashing defiantly where a previous generation sought to drift on narcotic clouds. To wit, “Field” gives way to a rising chorus of screaming guitar feedback amid the track’s percussive cross-hatching. Listening to this record, I was glad to hear this kind of tonal and timbral contrast, because it’s ultimately what’s interesting about this music. There’s not all that much compositional development to these pieces (which is probably not the point); rather, as you listen to them you hear detail slowly unfurling.

This happens pleasantly on “Via L4 Norte,” whose gentle pulse slowly laps against the traffic noises that open it up with a sputter. That Németh tends to introduce sinuous grooves into all such moments doesn’t so much overwrite the details as frame them, whether these are chiming or scraped guitar strings, rubbed glass, or a dash of harmonium. Even the most block-rocking piece (“Luukkaankangas”) has its head-nodding beats underpinned by whirling eddies of sound and tactile metallic shifts (as well as Németh’s favored guitar feedback eruptions).

In the end, perhaps many of the pieces don’t sound too different from Radian, but they lack that band’s sharp edge somehow – not just on the soft, gauzy tunes like “Soprus,” with its lulling chimes, but throughout. The translucent closing track “Ortem Ende” is, like much of this record, very pleasant to listen to. But its pleasures don’t linger long in the memory.

By Jason Bivins

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