Published Sep 14, 2016Fennesz and O'Rourke have been trailblazers and accomplished collaborators for over 20 years. They both have a degree of recognition within rock music circles, Fennesz for his digitally shattered shoegaze take on Beach Boys nostalgia, and O'Rourke for his work with Wilco, Sonic Youth and more. Despite somewhat accessible entry points to their catalogues, they also have some very noisy and experimental tendencies, perhaps most evident in their electro-acoustic improv trio with Peter Rehberg, Fenn O'Berg. This collaborative album, It's Hard for Me to Say I'm Sorry, casually sits somewhere in the middle between tonal ambience and noisy dissonance.
"I Just Want You To Stay" opens the album with delicate melodic fragments that could be slide guitar or synthesizer. For a few minutes, various electronic effects morph our soundscape with some slippery dissonance mixed into the relative calm, and around four minutes, some subtle noise starts to trickle in, too. Around seven minutes in, more apparently crescendoing elements start to coalesce, with added distortion elevating the tension. The build is unassumingly stable, almost meandering, until peak distortion gives way to clicks and crackles. This deceptive fizzle-out is washed away by larger waves of distorted synth pads around the 15-to-17-minute period, and the true climax is led by rapid-fire synths (or possibly noise from a self-oscillating delay pedal).
"Wouldn't Wanna Be Swept Away" mines similar territory, but the pacing is a bit more awkward, with noise and tonality that never seem to resolve satisfactorily, and a climax in the first half that weakens the ending.
Both artists can write well-structured songs, and can skilfully balance acoustic guitar signals with electronic processing. Unfortunately, with few discernible guitar sounds to ground them, these strengths don't shine through over the two long, semi-improvised pieces here. (Editions Mego)