It might be my imagination, but it seems to me that there has not been such a flood of compelling albums released so far this year as was the case in 2013. Certainly, new albums by Beck, Real Estate and (though this jury is still out) Woods are more than welcome, but the standout so far, for me at least, is "Becs", by Fennesz.
Over the past 10 or so years, Christian Fennesz has conveyed the impression of digging his own furrow through the sonic possibilities of guitar and electronics, untainted by whatever musics might be going on around him, or out there in the wider world. He may not be blinkered, but he is unquestionably committed.
"Becs" continues from where "Black Sea" left off. Critics are reading much into his return to Editions Mego as a possibly slightly backward step, and they are also reading this album, as a consequence, as something of a retread of "Endless Summer". It is true that the sun is peeking through the clouds throughout the new album. But if you listen to these two albums, and the two that came out between them, in sequence, I think you can comfortably say they are as linear as they are circular. Which is to say, they are, at the one time, neither of those things, and both of them. (This makes sense to me.)
"Liminality", which forms the centre of "Becs", runs over 10 minutes. It comprises a relatively simple and straightforward sequence of notes and chords. And yet it is the most emotionally draining piece of music I have heard for some time. There are a small number of songs that I can only listen to when I am on my own, on account of the listening experience being intensely personal. I can add "Liminality" to that list. The guitar playing is as exposed as Fennesz has ever allowed it to be. Yes, it is partially encrusted with layers of sonic gunk, which, by the way, doesn't at all interfere with what he is doing, but each individual note, each chord, sends out with it the unmistakable echo of tears cascading off the strings.
(Bonus: Tony Buck contributes drums that are so Necks-like you assume he was given free reign. As with his work in The Necks, he plays in a way that doesn't draw attention to his immense gifts.)