Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke – It’s Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry (Editions Mego, 2016)


Qualia are internalised thoughts, feelings and sensations that can’t be adequately described or defined to other people: colours for example, or particularly difficult emotional sentiments. The so-called explanatory gap in human language leaves us beached in these instances, unable to assign any combination of words to explain these deeply personal experiences. Perhaps it’s this reason that Fennesz and O’Rourke have decided to bypass language here, taking their complex emotional battery and entrusting it to a more universal medium of self-expression: sound.

“I Just Want You To Stay” is the first of the two, and arguably the more poetic. It croons and dotes at first, a romantic glimmering present in the early passages of warbling retro-synths that lazily meander along the status-quo, whispery nothings transmuting slowly into downtempo passages of loose, uncollected drones that begin to spell change. Tentative guitars and delicate uncertainties start to emerge, stalwart omens of movement into unwanted territory that takes a turn for the heavy at the halfway mark as new and blustery sequences take over. Suddenly we’re trapped in a whirlwind of motion, a curtain of pulsating guitar resistance thrown up with a rain of darkling drones and glitch spasms, patterns of unrest skating through its lashings.

Before we know it it’s up, we’re passing through the eye of the storm and into the stalled air of its interior, lost and weightless in the languid bleariness of burnt out drones content to sit in the easiness of the present and not contemplate the uproarious future (or recent past).

But there still is a future and it’s still resisting in “Wouldn’t Wanna Be Swept Away”. Similarly deceptive beginnings open the piece but with a heavy heart this time, its placid drones rich with resignation as it tumbles quickly into familiar Fennesz territory; suddenly the air is ablaze with guitar, chords shunting out from some deep place in empowered blasts. It rapidly blisters, an endless stream of distal processings and heady strings fighting back against the invisible menace of change, its stirringly damaged insistence radiating a glowing and enveloping power, a consumptive love at once both overwhelming and insufficient.

But it passes eventually and all that remains is a bubbling synthscape, a nebulous zone beyond the fighting that swims in pinging tones and tinkling ambience in the gaseous wreckage, all sense of feeling blasted away and forced to slowly reintegrate from the particulate left behind. It gathers just enough strength to squeeze a few calamitous guitars out in the last few minutes, a posthumous fuck you to the hardships as they quickly recede while we push onwards into a dramatically vacuous but likely better future.

To talk about the music defeats its purpose: it wants to be heard and consumed so as to completely bridge the explanatory gap, demands to be listened to in all its complicated and multi-faceted glory because it knows it tells a story too big for words, too heartfelt and personal for language. It’s only through its sonic undulations and grandiose textures that we can appreciate the nuances, so I implore you to lend it your ears for 40 minutes and just let it explain itself in its entirety.