Audio Mixers: E.T.; Fred "Brian" Monestier.
Recording information: Berlin (03/2015).
Defying easy categorization, Berlin-based pop experimentalists Fenster follow up their lovely 2014 LP, The Pink Caves, with an otherworldly science fiction soundtrack to their first film, Emocean. Initially intended to be a faux documentary about the making of their third album, the film then depicts the band being beamed into an alternate dimension where they suddenly become devoid of feelings. According to Fenster, the mostly instrumental soundtrack was conceived and recorded prior to making the film, and its celestial world of spacy synths and Krautrock grooves informed the film's bizarre premise. Only three albums into their young career and Fenster have shown a tendency to evolve substantially with each release, with Emocean undoubtedly being their most ambitious project to date. Citing a myriad of influences from prog acts like King Crimson and Pink Floyd to Can, Devo, and 1970's Turkish disco, these ten tracks are neatly composed, though not necessarily song-based, reflecting the band's more exploratory side. The warm, dreamy "Memories" is one of the album's rare vocal tracks and its easy rhythms feel almost tropical, pairing watery soft-rock guitar tones with an unexpected and quite charming clarinet solo. The music is beautifully captured, occasionally resembling the Flaming Lips' spaced-out surrealism, but without iciness of some of their more cerebral late-era works. The bulk of the tracks seem synth-generated but blended with plenty of live instrumentation. They are, at times, quirky and humorous like the off-key cosmic blues riffing on "Mental Blues" or the wacky, plodding, bleep-festooned lounge of "Eyeland." Other times, there's an ethereal beauty to the music as on the sunny "Les Fleurs" or the majestic title track, which could be the love theme from a John Carpenter film. Having jumped head-first down this strange new rabbit hole, it will be interesting to see where Fenster will go next. ~ Timothy Monger