Christian Fennesz & Jim O'Rourke

It’s Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry


Genre: Electronic

Style: Ambient, Experimental

Label: Editions Mego

Review snippets taken from Jonathan Wroble’s review found here on Slant

Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke are both serial collaborators who use side projects to explore beyond the hallmarks of their solo work: O’Rourke to escape his pop leanings, Fennesz his fascination with drone and distortion. But It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry isn’t so much a typical exercise in exploration as one in purposeful restraint. Built of just two extended tracks and a limited set of instruments, the album sounds like an attempt to see just how little these two avant-garde composers can do together.

This sense of focus makes It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry a rewarding listen, and a strikingly cohesive work from two artists whose discographies are intimidating in their scatter and reach—not to mention whose personalities are deeply fogged. O’Rourke is an especially dense chestnut of a musician and producer, his music imbued with dark and often inscrutable humor; it can’t be coincidence, for instance, that he released a different ambient collaboration last month titled I wonder if you noticed “I’m sorry” is such a lovely sound it keeps things from getting worse. Yet his influence, whenever this album’s glitchy synths fumble into compelling hooks, comes through cleanly and clearly, and his fondness for abrupt change is reined in by Fennesz’s mastery of subtle transition. Meanwhile, Fennesz’s tendency toward gurgling electric guitar is reduced to a few controlled solos, suggesting even further that the album is a consciously designed and conciliatory set.

The contemplative opening track, “I Just Want You to Stay,” establishes the album’s tone: Fennesz and O’Rourke use minimal synth layers to construct a theme, then improvise using various found sounds and traditional instruments to distract from, duel with, and at times almost destroy their original creation. Starting around the six-and-a-half-minute mark, after quiet synths achieve an aura of hypnotic tension, sections of guitar and ascending computer sounds arrive like curious intruders, but ultimately fade out at the edge of a major hook or total upheaval. It’s sometimes surprising when these disruptive instruments disappear to hear that the synths remain; by the song’s end, it’s even a comfort to rediscover the central tension in the continued plodding of keyboard washes.