Viennese experimental guitarist and laptop artist Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke on synthesizer in a beautiful album of sonic environments, with "gurgling harmonies swimming among the shimmering frequencies and strummed melodies"; recommended.
Fennesz, Christian / Jim O'Rourke
It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry [VINYL]
Label: Editions Mego
Released in: Austria
"Despite decades of activity and having crossed paths in various collaborations, this release presents the first-ever duo recording from two of the most highly regarded citizens of planet experimental electronic. Individually, Jim O'Rourke and Christian Fennesz have been responsible for numerous legendary works that merge the traditional avant-garde with contemporary sensibilities.
On It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry these giants of experimental electronic practice come together for an immensely powerful sonic experience. The signatures of both O'Rourke and Fennesz cohabit this release, with O'Rourke's gurgling harmonies swimming among the shimmering frequencies and strummed melodies produced by Fennesz. The two tracks situate themselves as a warm electronic adventure; simultaneously radical and comforting, these works shift from gentle sonorities to fully distorted explosions, all of which reside within a template of tension between musical and non-music matter. Timeless in execution and presentation, It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry is a deeply rewarding sonic experience from two of the most romantic gentlemen active in experimental music today."-Editions Mego
"Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke are both romantics with different approaches. The Viennese guitarist and electronic musician Fennesz is an emotional maximalist, and he approaches his material the way J. M. W. Turner did his storm clouds: plowing straight into the squall, sails full, heart bursting. The American experimental-music polymath O'Rourke, on the other hand, is sly and exacting: Where Fennesz goes chasing vapor, O'Rourke is all about containment, channeling every drop of sentiment into finely wrought crystal goblets. On It's Hard for Me to Say I'm Sorry, the two musicians tease out their respective differences across two long instrumental tracks that are alternately luminous and blustery. It is an album about small details and big emotions, and when it works, the collaboration represents the best of their tendencies.
The two musicians have a long history together. Alongside the Editions Mego founder Peter Rehberg, aka Pita, they have recorded five albums under the Fenn O'Berg alias since 1999, but this is their first duo project together. Running roughly 18 and 20 minutes, respectively, both tracks are vaguely narrative in shape. The material was recorded in Kobe, Kyoto, and Tokyo in September 2015; that there were three locations involved but only two tracks came out of the recordings tells us that some kind of editing was involved, but otherwise, there's not a lot of daylight on their process. It sounds as though two guitars were involved, as well as a whole lot of digital processing, and it's tempting to ascribe the fuzzier, more reverberant axe-work to Fennesz. The clean-toned harmonic clusters, meanwhile, are more in keeping with O'Rourke's delicate touch, as well as his frequent use of pedal steel.
"I Just Want You to Stay" is the stronger of the two tracks. It begins with gorgeous filaments of tone ringed with a halo of hazy dissonance, and for four minutes, it just swirls in place, its movements reminiscent of time-lapse video of tumbling thunderheads. Unlike most electronic music, there's precious little repetition here: Even as the music approaches a long plateau that resembles a beatless, zero-G My Bloody Valentine, it remains in constant mutation. Mercurial and ephemeral, this is music that emphasizes time above all else; its considerable melancholy derives from the knowledge that beauty is inextricable from impermanence. And there are some truly wrenchingly beautiful moments here as it winds toward a long, gentle false ending-soft clacking tones, wreathed in curlicues of feedback, that suggests the sound of pebbles rolling on the ocean floor-and its final climax, ecstatic and bittersweet.
"Wouldn't Wanna Be Swept Away" proceeds in almost exactly the same way, from its understated introduction to the way it breaks down into four main movements. But the balance is off: After a crystalline beginning, it gives way to a dissonant, distorted passage of eighth-note chug that mistakes bombast for intrigue, and it pushes you away instead of pulling you in. What follows is one of the loveliest passages on the album, rich with distant bell tones, quietly pinging synthesizer, and bright fifths reminiscent of Jon Hassell. But then the heavy-handed strumming returns, and the music's final five minutes amount to a duel between big, purposeful chords and quicksilver background burble. From the track's tongue-in-cheek title, it's clear that the artists are well aware of the risks of throwing themselves too eagerly into the wine-dark churn, but here, O'Rourke isn't quite capable of reining in Fennesz' more impetuous inclinations, and by the end of it, you find yourself craving a quiet patch of warm, dry land on which to catch your breath."-Philip Sherburne, Pitchfork MediaAlso available on CD.
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Label: Editions Mego
Catalog ID: EMEGO 221LP
Squidco Product Code: 22018
Recorded in Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo, in September 2015.
Christian Fennesz-guitar, laptop
Jim O' Rourke-synthesizer
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1. I Just Want You To Stay 18:12
1. Wouldn't Wanna Be Swept Away 20:14