“Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not” by On
Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess return, accompanied by Christian Fennesz.
‘Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not’ is the third album from Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess under their On moniker, and continues their excavation of abstracted experimental sounds. As with the previous records, improvisations were recorded in a studio in Chicago and then handed to a guest musician to rework in whichever way they saw fit, and this time around the guest musician is none other than experimental pioneer Christian Fennesz. Christian’s association with the band goes way back – he performed with them in 2004 as a trio so it seemed almost inevitable that a collaboration would emerge at some point, but this treatment truly takes the notion of collaboration to another place entirely.
Unlike ‘Your Naked Ghost Comes Back At Night’ (which was handled by dark-ambient master Deathprod), Fennesz has treated the source sounds with a distinct lightness, allowing them to creak and breathe. Occasionally you can hear the room itself ticking in the foreground – hands on drumsticks and feet on pedals. The sounds become the backbone of the intense, slow-building dronescapes that Fennesz pulls from the original recordings. We are treated to piercing noise as the album opens with a choir of feedback, but the cacophony gradually disperses to allow pulsing harmony and Steven Hess’s propulsive, metronomic drumming.
When we close on the blissful near 20-minute ‘The Sound Of White’, echoes of Fennesz’s best work drifts through the crackle and pulse of Sylvain Chauveau’s prepared guitar and Hess’s distant percussion. These hypnotic patterns slowly rise and fall, giving the listener time to truly hear each subtle shift. This is not an exercise in easy listening – rather here is an album that demands close attention, and one where the beauty truly is in the details.