It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry (Editions Mego) is the debut duo recording by old friends Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke, who previously performed and recorded together with Peter Rehberg, aka Pita, under the portmanteau name Fenn O’Berg.
It’s not much like any of Fenn O’Berg’s recordings, but it is closer to them than to anything else – certainly closer than anything else that’s been done in O’Rourke’s name. And yes, it’s rich in the expected Fenneszian way, with primarily guitar-sourced sounds that are multilayered and interleaved to ravishing effect, but it’s not that close to his own solo work either.
The duo has its own vibe: an easygoing and trance-like effect far that’s removed from Fenn O’Berg’s edgy eclecticism. And yet, where Rehberg’s recent solo album (Get In (Editions Mego)), the first Pita offering in twelve years, marked something of a return to computer music essentials, Fenn O are still seeking something curiouser.
In any case, there are just two pieces here, both LP-side long and self-contained, but most effective as a sonic diptych.
“I Just Want You To Stay” (18:12) is blissful but not pacific. It begins with quiet guitar sounds, lapping harmonics creating a liquid, shimmering luminescence that’s shrouded in heat haze electronics: echoes of the revery underpinning Fennesz’ Endless Summer. After seven minutes the mood shifts, with chiming chords and sound processing with a flintier, glitchier quality (O’Rourke’s 2001 laptop classic I’m Happy, and I’m Singing, and a 1,2,3,4 briefly the touchstone). Then there’s a sense of ascension, a soaring uplift undercut by implicit fragility and melancholia. And sure enough the upfull mood passes, the surge abates, and the music slips into a tenebrous ambience ripe for another wave of Fenneszian white noise.
“Wouldn’t Wanna Be Swept Away” (20:14) is a bit colder, beginning with synth tones, susurrations and single notes in empty space, then chords urgently but hazily amassed and dispersed. Harder, slashing fretwork and bass notes roil the electronic ether, and the soundfield swells again to a new mass rich with processed guitar sound, peaking in the seventh minute. An abatement and diminuendo then leads to a still passage of aquatic tintinabulism ghosted by insinuated voices – a gloaming in which layered guitar chords bloom and proliferate amid melodious, ocarina-pitched processed sounds – one more tidal swell of intensity, and it’s over.
Anyone with an established taste for either Fennesz or O’Rourke will lap this up. There may not be any real surprises or innovations here, but It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry is so seductive, so deliciously well crafted that that doesn’t matter. And anyone else should be suitably enraptured.
Christian Fennesz; Jim O’Rourke