I couldn’t think of any new Irish releases to review on Paddy’s day but Fenn O’Berg certainly sound the part.  They are not, in fact, a ruddy-faced Irish jongleur but an endearingly juvenile pun on the names of electronic musicians Christian Fennesz, Jim O’Rourke and Mego label boss Peter Rehberg.

For a process that can seem so introverted the idea of an electronic supergroup is an odd one. It’s hardly Crosby, Stills and Nash. The idea of three men sitting on a stage behind MacBooks probably isn’t too exciting to most folk. But despite some cynicism this is an engrossing listen.

Electronic supergroups have had some success before, the Raster Noton collective Signal (Olaf Bender, Frank Bretschneider and Carsten Nicolai) springs to mind. The trio of Fennesz, O’Rourke and Rehberg have been collaborating on music together sporadically for over ten years, this release being the first studio production after the previous live performance albums.

In Stereo takes the form of an investigation into analogue and digital synthesis. Guitars feature heavily, as you might expect from the three protagonists, but also bursts of piano and drums. The album, though, at first has little else in common with the individual nuances of the three. There is little in the way of the expansive guitar drones of Fennesz, the dense noise of Peter Rehberg or Jim O’Rourke’s elaborate arrangements. In fact, it may help to put aside the expectations associated with the three artists. The success of this collaboration can partly be attributed to the blending of the individual’s input; there is no show-boating, no braggadocio of each’s trademark sounds. It has more in common aesthetically with Keith Fullarton Whitman’s Multiples project or the sound-space creation of BJ Nilsen.

You are left trying to mentally separate the composite of personalities. On Part Iv you can begin to hear warm guitar static starting to flourish before being wound up tightly and eventually being stopped in its tracks by sharp computerized jabs. Is this Christian Fennesz being brought into check by Peter Rehberg?

In Stereo is not an album that is easy to discuss on a track by track basis. It has lost the playful gimmicks of earlier Fenn O’Berg releases that could act as directional signposts. It exists in constant flux, an oblique mist of electronic noodling.

It’s safe to assume not everyone will enjoy this album. It is compositionally complex, there is little in the way of melody to latch on to and when melody does appear it seems to be entirely incidental. However, if you are more than happy to bury your head in a bucket of electronic prodigality then carry on.

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