When it was first announced that Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto were going to team up for a couple releases, many rejoiced. Sakamoto has made a name for himself over the past couple years for his sometimes adventurous neo-classical music, while Fennesz seemed to be the Velvet Underground of the laptop era, inspiring countless electronic artists to pull up a guitar and MAX/MSP in order to create damaged, cracking ambient music. Last year, their Sala Santa Cecilia EP dropped, and while it certainly had its moments, it mostly sounded like the work of two artists getting familiar with one another over the course of a single, sprawling track.
Cendre is the full length collaboration from the two, and while the tracks on the release are shorter and a bit more focused, they all move with a similar feel. With Fennesz on guitar and Sakamoto on piano (and both of them on laptops), the majority of the release finds Fennesz creating his slightly buzzing, completely obscured guitar sounds as pure textural elements while Sakamoto moves between contemplative and meandering on the ivories. There are a couple tracks where both of them go completely digital, but for the most part it sticks to this sort of a pattern.
The result is an album that engages at times, but for the most part doesn't really stick out very much considering the two musicians involved. Tracks like "Oto" and "Haru" are certainly pretty, but are so basic and largely safe that they're close to dipping into new age. Sakamoto has certainly made his fair share of syrupy music, but part of what made their debut EP interesting is that the listener couldn't really tell who was doing what, with the end result being a shifting, sometimes otherworldly piece that was truly unique in places.
Here, the two have delineated their contributions more, and often times it doesn't even sound like they're really working together, with Fennesz creating his warm beds of hissing electronics while Sakamoto adds his sketch-like piano playing over the top. Other than in a couple places (like the deep and haunting album-titled "Cendre" and the harsher, more dissonant "Trace"), the eleven song release sounds similar to several ambient releases that have been put out in the past several years. It's certainly better on headphones, where the production subtleties bring out a bit more of interest, but this fifty minute trip is sadly quite a letdown after the time spent waiting for it. You might be able to fall asleep to it, but there's not enough dynamics or otherwise on Cendre to really make it stand out.