[Reviewed by stark]
I was grumbling a bit at the previous Thomas Köner album, “Novaya Zemlya”, but I have to admit that in time it grew on me, and these days I listen to it in its entirety with great pleasure. I’m curious what will be the case with “Tiento De Las Nieves,” because so far after a few attempts I’m rather skeptical.
The minimalism in “Tiento De Las Nieves” strikes me from the first second. On this one, the silence plays as important a role – if not more – than the sound itself. Yes, this has always been the trademark of the German sound sculptor, but I have a feeling that on this output he offers quite little in return. A Spanish title, because the base sounds were recorded on the Iberian Peninsula. The title can have a double meaning, since ‘tiento’ means ‘touch’, therefore the ‘touch of snow’; but the word also refers to the musical keyboard form which originates from Spain. So everything is in place and conceptually it all ties up nicely. Especially since Thomas Köner from the beginning has been associated with glacial isolationist ambient. This aspect is intensified by the ascetic, snow-white cover and quote from the “Farthest North” by Fridtjof Hansen inside the digipak.
Köner presents a pure, Eno-esque form of ambient focusing on one sound source, celebrating and smoothing it sometimes to a fault. Hence the lack of any complementary factors. We focus exclusively on stretched, single key piano sounds, sometimes I think respectively ‘souped-up’, and where customarily the textures filling empty spaces should appear, there’s nothing. The silence that after a while starts to play on its own. With all this sounding very clear, and adding the feeling of communion with a vast and infinite space.
But where’s the snow and frost, I ask. On the occasion of my “Novaya Zemlya” review I mentioned that it was nothing new in comparison to the German’s classic releases. Today, I’m wondering if I’d rather not in fact preferred more of the same. I worship that monotony of his, but it gets to me more when it’s cold as ice and cutting my skin like densely scattering snowflakes. I don’t know ,maybe some people see it that way. I don’t, although I would love to.
After each “Tiento De Las Nieves” lecture I feel like reading “Ravedeath 1972” by Tim Hecker again. Where Köner carves a sound and cuts all the unnecessary ‘protruding’ elements, digging into the purity of the original essence, the Canadian destroys the musical form with one swing, seeking the beauty of deconstruction, and said essence can be found in echoes and reverbs that are a side-effect of the whole ravaging process. At this moment I think Hecker’s policy seems more intimate and real. On the last Thomas Köner album there’s too much hairsplitting. And a lot of boredom. This uncool kind of boredom.