The soundtrack for the dinner party you forgot to send the invites to
In a certain sense writing a review about AUN: The Beginning & End of All Things by Christian Fennesz is a little like cracking a joke at a funeral. No matter how calmly or delicately your approach, it’ll come off as crass and indelicate. The sounds on this record swirl and rotate then rise and dissipate like rings of smoke. Describing it at all asks a gentle and guided hand. This is the soundtrack for the Austrian / Japanese co-produced film called AUN. The title, we’re asked to believe, means “the beginning and end of all things”—which doesn’t really mean anything. An alternate title might be “AUN: The End of your Otherwise Cheery Mood”.
I won’t go into detail about the film itself. Had I never known of the association I would still have called it cinematic. At times it’s uncomfortable and inaccessible. At other times, it’s compelling, melodic and comforting. I returned many times as it was perfect, in a very utilitarian sense, for concentrating or working. It’s the sort of sound you could enjoy alone, as a backdrop to some solitary activity. It’s alien and disconnected, never coming close to melody enough to sound melodramatic or trite. Kae begins with the sound of friction which emerges as a theme. It’s not harsh friction but a light ambient scraping that resolves throughout the currents of urgent tones. The friction sometimes sounds like rain or static and later, the dragging of metal bristles on a concrete floor. At its most stark, the sound is a barely audible backdrop to piano keys and lush tones that appear sporadically in Aware and fade as the record goes on.
There is no direct need to see the film to appreciate the record for its own merits—especially if hushed dark atmospheres and seemingly (but probably not) random key plinks are your thing. The mood so purposefully evoked here by Christian Fennesz will ensure that this film is never described as the feel-good movie of the year. The director Edgar Honetschläger once said in an interview about the film, “I am not interested in reality”—so it’s fitting that Fennesz renders his vision in a suitably languid and often dreary progression. He succeeds in aurally representing emotional discord and intense loneliness. But he does it in a way that’s almost sympathetic to the problems you didn’t know you had. I wish I could tell you more but, [sigh] I just need to be by myself.