The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia):
The Milk Factory (UK):
In recent times, Australian guitarist Oren Ambarchi has been busy with the more experimental side of his work and has published a considerable amount of music on various labels, including Southern Lord, Room40 and For 4 Ears. He has also become a regular fixture as part of Sunn O)))), and has been spotted playing alongside the likes of Fennesz, John Zorn, Keith Rowe, Günter Müller, Evan Parker or Toshimaru Nakamura to name but a few, leaving the line of work leading up to his 2004 album Grapes From The Estate to lay somewhat dormant. In The Pendulum’s Embrace therefore marks his long awaited return to Touch and to more melodic forms.
Counting only three tracks, each clocking above ten minutes, with the opening piece stretching to almost eighteen minutes, this new opus continues in the footsteps of the superb Grapes From The Estate. On Fever, A Warm Poison, Ambarchi works almost exclusively with the lower end of the guitar spectrum and creates a somewhat more sombre frame of bass distortions than heard on previous Touch recordings. Expanding on his basic electric guitar setting, Ambarchi incorporates here bells, glass harmonica and drums but retains the arid aspect of his earlier work.
The scope appears similar on Inamorata. Here, Ambarchi uses a seemingly more restricted pool of sounds (electric guitars). During the first few minutes, Ambarchi assembles rare notes played on the lower end of the guitar, but as the composition progresses, he moves up the scale and builds in additional strings textures, provided by Australian ensemble Fourplay String Quartet member Veren Grigorov. This eventually proves to be the richest set of sounds heard on the album. On Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow, Ambarchi finally let’s some light in by applying a series of motifs carved from the more common register on an acoustic guitar. While the piece kicks off with somber sub-bass tones and scarce electronics, the move away from guttural depths allow for much more subtle and airy melodic formations and reveals some superb ethereal moments. Like on Fever, A Warm Poison, Ambarchi adds layers of sounds, here bells and voice to give his work a wider scope.
Very much like its Touch predecessor, In The Pendulum’s Embrace reaches to new, more hospitable terrains, than some of Oren Ambarchi’s more extreme work. Here, he plays with a more varied set of sounds than he has done in the past, and his music gains in warmth and accessibility, yet, this new album is at times more arid and minimal than Grapes From The Estate. Ambarchi retains here the full exploratory nature of his work and makes of this latest offering a precious addition to his discography. 4.2/5
Oren Ambarchi has made a new step in his continuing meandering solo-output. In the pendulum's embrace' is a new turn in the river. The water keeps on streaming, the swimming has never been so sweet.
The following text is a composition of some ideas on the new record, with some of Ambarchi's own words in between. The conversation was done via e-mail towards the end of 2006. Read this as an expanded review or a limited interview. Well, it doesn't really matter how you read it. Just read it. Thanks.
We have to admit something: we like Oren Ambarchi. Not that he knows about it, but the first time we encountered him (Geneva, in the magnificent and sadly lost Cave 12 2003), his live performance left an unforgettable impression on us. There we were, fascinated from the first tone to the last, not knowing what we just heard. Was this all so new, was it all so different? Maybe not. But what we knew was this: Ambarchi wasn't just producing interesting sounds and putting them after one another. He wasn't just trying to move his audience with an easy approach on harmony and emotion. What devastated us, was his ability to do all this, to integrate all these equally important parts of music, to take us for a ride into his landscape and deliver us safely home. His presence in the room remained unnoticed, until the music was gone.
Before we start, let's make sure we're talking about the same guy. Are we talking about the guy who works with key electroacoustic improvisation figures as Keith Rowe or Toshimaru Nakamura? Are we talking about the guy who likes his share of drone and metal attitude, and shares this love on stage with no one less than US outfit Sunn O)))? Is this the same guy who holds the drumsticks in another band called Sun – their name being the only similarity (what's black in Sunn is white in Sun – what's gloomy in Sunn is happy in Sun)? Well, yes, yes and yes. Ambarchi does it all, armed with one red guitar and some 30 kilo of electronic devices. He's making music since 1986, has released over 10 solo recordings, lives and breathes music, and travels the world to share his talent. Talk about a rock star!
The swing of the Pendulum
All of the above is present on the new album. In the Pendulum's Embrace is a very natural step for Ambarchi, as over his several solo albums, he's always expanding his tone language and instrumental occupation. "I had made quite a few purely 'solo' recordings", he tells us, "and after a while, especially after working with Chris Townend on the Sun record, I was interested in incorporating additional instrumentation, colours and textures in my solo work. This has continued to evolve on my recent solo recordings." On the new album, this evolution pays off. In Inamorata, Ambarchi works with strings, building a very tight suspense. The abstractness doesn't stop him from actually telling a story, something he deliberately focuses on: "I like the music to have some sort of narrative and I like it when a piece is 'epic', even if it's 'abstract' or 'experimental'. Exploring one idea with all its detail and possibilities really appeals to me. I've always loved long, drawn out pieces or improvisations that start off simply and then goes on some sort of search, such as Indian Ragas."
For the first time, this raga influence is actually audible in the music. The third and last song, Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow comes closest Ambarchi has ever come to clear guitar playing. Bells, acoustic guitars and voice (!) make of this song a very relaxed and peaceful listening experience. The long-spun guitar melodies remind sometimes of NY-based Mountains. Beautiful melodies, bells and a lot of sound are the main ingredients. That is, if we neglect Ambarchi's singing, which of course, we don't. This would be the first time we actually hear him use his voice on a record. Not that this melancholic mesmerizing is the album's main point, but it's remarkable at least. Call us chauvinistic, but what we heard, reminded us of Belgian lofi singer Ignatz. And do we need to say all of this is accompanied by heavy guitar loops on the background? Didn't think so.
A map to an unknown place
Where does Ambarchi start off? Improvisation or experiment? "I think they are both completely connected," he says. "Whenever I record, a piece usually starts off as an improvisation and then I shape it via overdubs or by removing layers, only including what's essential."
His working method has remained the same, Ambarchi says. "Even if I am improvising in a group context, I take a similar approach as I do when I play solo - composing some sort of narrative, shaping a piece of music in real-time via improvisation. I'm involved in many diverse musical projects such as The Four Gentlemen Of The Guitar (with Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz & Toshimaru Nakamura), and as a guest with US band Sunn O))), These two projects utilize improvisation and they may seem completely different from eachother but there's definitely a common thread that connects the various so-called 'diverse' projects I'm involved in and their approach to improvisation; I don't know exactly what it is, but I think many of these projects approach sound as a landscape and, they also explore the concept of 'music as time'."
Ambarchi's involvement in recent metal combos has not gone unnoticed. His appearance in bands like Sunn O))) or the Burial Chamber Trio (with Greg Anderson and Attila Csihar) only proved his ability to put on different hats (or should we say masks?) and adapt his working method into different environments. The baseline for all of his musical output remains the same though. Not sound, or production, but the moving aspect, is what motivates our favorite Australian. "To a certain extent I'm not really interested in what it is or how it's produced - the most important question is, does it move me? Is it personal? I don't care if it's made on a 1-string guitar, a laptop or whatever." The earlier mentioned harmonic aspect may be linked to this.
Has Ambarchi's solo work changed because of his metal-pals? We would say yes. Listen to the new album's first song, Fever, A Warm Poison and compare it to doom-icon Earth's output. In a way, these collaborations are a big enrichment for his music. Subtle drums and guitars bring us a saddened mood. The clear sound unmistakably refers to the doompioneers without copying them. Controversly, Ambarchi incorporates the Earth-legacy in his own world, as if he is inviting them to check it out. Who would say no to that?
Digging a bit deeper in musician's motivations for making music can be hard. Sometimes, you just do what you got to do, no questions asked. Intuition and searching seem the most important motivations for him, but why does he do it? What does he want to bring across? "To quote Kiss' Gene Simmons: 'There are no messages, there's no inner being striving to express itself through music. We all picked up guitars because we all wanted to get laid. Plain and simple.' I don't think about it (why he makes music – red) too much but I do know that since I was very young I have always been completely obsessed with listening to and being involved in music &/or art. I buy records, books, DVDs etc on a daily basis, I continually need to hear new things, discover artists I've never heard of etc. It's like food or air for me, I need it to survive (although sometimes I think it's a sickness)."
Is In The Pendulum's Embrace a necessity for you? Let's hope by now you know the answer. [Article by Maarten Huvenne, October 2007]
Australian Oren Ambarchi is a sound artist with longstanding interests in transcending conventional instrumental approaches, focusing mainly on the guitar. On his previous albums with Touch as well as on his releases for Tzadik and Southern Lord, Ambarchi has “transcended guitar into a zone of alien beauty”. With 'In The Pendulum’s Embrace', Ambarchi produces a follow-up to 2004’s ‘Grapes from the Estate’ by continuing with the suffocating slices of sub-sonic blackness which are complimented by the ‘light’ that comes with acoustic unprocessed instrumentation.
Over the course of 40 minutes and three tracks, Ambarchi engages in an exercise of sonic-disorientation instead of sonic-destruction and this is expertly done via wall shaking bass and drone-doom which are interlaced with isolated elements of glass harmonica, strings, bells, piano, percussion and guitars. On 'Inamorata' the instrumentation scuttles subtly in the background before rising to the fore just like a slow-motion tear has been cut through a pitch black sky to reveal blinding light. The combination of lush but unhurried and solitary instrumentation creates a Grails-esque post-rock feel to the composition. The closing track 'Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow' features tightly clustered strings flickering upon foreboding droneage which has now been relegated to the background. Towards the end, murmured vocals join proceedings to add a further element of ‘life’ to the now blossoming piece.
On the inside cover Ambarchi has a black and grey picture of a cold, almost empty beach with an industrial port in the background. This image has particular resonance with the music of 'In The Pendulum’s Embrace' as Ambarchi sonically portrays a vision of desolate plains, subtle background industrial activity, coldness and the deep black of the ocean through his sub-sonic drone and bass activity. This bleakness is offset by the warm instrumentation which may represent the life that occupies the ocean, industrial port and beach.
Ultimately, Ambarchi succeeds in creating sub-sonic doom drone which, due to the broad palette of instrumentation, has real soul. His ability to arrange these conflicting elements (density and fragility) in such a cohesive manner is impressive and makes ‘In The Pendulum’s Embrace’ an album to cherish. Remember, play LOUD.
For fans of: Keith Rowe, Sunn O))), Phill Niblock, Earth
Having recently spent time scouring a darker aspect of his music, releasing on Southern Lord, and performing as part of SunnO))), Oren Ambarchi's output of late has taken a turn away from the warmer, more accessible climes of his wonderful "Grapes From The Estate" album. Within the past year or so, the Australian drone maestro has turned his attention to the raw, less sanitised tonal explorations of Stacte Motors and Lost Like A Star, both of which captured Ambarchi at his most vehemently experimental, using elements of mechanical automation to propagate a kind of industrialised drone, divorcing the more uneven, human elements from the compositional process. "In The Pendulum's Embrace" finds Ambarchi returning both to the Touch label, and the more emotive, personable sound that characterised his most enduring work. Clearly very much at home experimenting with lower frequency spectra, 'Fever, A Warm Poison' quietly plunges itself into an ocean of bass, the guitar's bottom end resonating beautifully as a corona of cymbal fizz pans across the spatial field. Via small, gradual gestures Ambarchi reaches the piece's midway point only to unleash some more conventional-sounding electric guitar phrases (you can tell this guy's been spending time around the Southern Lord crew, some of this stuff could have appeared on Earth's Hex album), before retreating into a fug of suspended bell resonance and glass harmonica tones. 'Inamorta' raises the stakes higher still, featuring the introduction of a string section - not your usual ensemble format, but rather a multitracked sequence of awkwardly beautiful drone tones, all cast against a shadowy guitar figure, looming in the background. By the time you arrive at the final piece in this gloomy triptych, Ambarchi's moved his music into hitherto unexplored sonorities with untreated, fingerpicked guitar - and even vocals - floating above the expanses of low frequency hum. There's almost a bluesy quality to Ambarchi's sound by this point: it's resolutely downbeat, yet never quite slips into the doom-laden, metallic sound he's recently immersed himself in. Instead, this is a music of meditative introspection, inhabiting dark corners. Very highly recommended.
Rough Trade Shops (UK):
oren ambarchi continues his otherworldly investigations with 'in the pendulum's embrace', a dark twin to his landmark 2004 album 'grapes from the estate'. returning again to the hallowed halls of bjb studios in sydney, ambarchi expands the scope and range of his unique musical language, incorporating an even broader pallette of instruments and sensibilities. despite the use of glass harmonica, strings, bells, piano, percussion and guitars, it's startling that the world created is still unmistakably his own, and that there is such a cohesion of vision throughout the albums's three lengthy pieces. with this record there's an even more tenuous coexistence of fragility and density; sounds as light as air mingling with wall shaking low-end. the converted already know the kind of trance-inducing euphoria of ambarchi's music.
Foxy Digitalis (USA):
Having defined his 'sound' some years ago - that definition revolving around a spiral of descended low register guitar tones, minimal composition structures and the occasional sweetly melodic overture - Australian guitarist Oren Ambarchi isevidently reaching out to a number of new sonic elements to foster continued growth of his musical language. On "The Pendulum's Embrace' he seems to have found this expanded language.
With the introduction of drums and other elements on his previous effort "Grapes From The Estate", Ambarchi offered the first inkling that his work with guitar may have reached a point of stasis - and not the kind that might continue to be uncovered in his compositions. The tempered delivery of opener "Fever, A Warm Poison" sets the aural environment for this record. Avoiding pure low frequency explosions, Ambarchi immediately introduces gentle brushed drums and as the piece evolves subtle tonal emissions care of glass harmonica. The results are rewarding and it's this piece that suggests that Ambarchi is only now beginning to find his feet as a composer, earlier records merely hinting at what might be.
The point seems reinforced by the album's final work "Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow". Whilst the title might sound like some cast off from a forgotten folk record of the early 1970s, the skillful and considered sound space Ambarchi creates in really quite exceptional. His detuned guitar notes sound out a pulsed bed of low-end richness that is invigorated with gentle patterns of acoustic guitar, bells
and a surprising use of voice that brings an unusual sense of the 'human' into his otherwise stark sonic landscapes. With the voice backward masked, there's still an unsettlingly disconnected sense of self here, a detuned vision, but it seems now we are truly 'hearing' Oren Ambarchi. 8/10 [Lawrence English]
The Wire (UK):
Ambarchi continues to investigate every possible avenue available to the deconstruction of the guitar, with this – his follow up to the euphoric, pastoral, “Grapes from the Estate”. “In the Pendulum’s Embrace”, further reduces and distils Ambarchi’s guitar sound, and fuses it with glass harmonica, percussion, strings, bells, and piano. Yet from this welter of instrumentation emerges a spare, enigmatic soundscape. These protracted dirges, these tendrils of sound instantly remind me of Labradford on ”downers” - all of the components of the composition minutely dissected and exposed, each tone hovering, never yielding to unbearable tension.
Ambarchi still severs his source material, reconfiguring and sliding components in and out of each piece, but with a much lighter touch than on previous works. His trademarks are still present and prevalent, and the techniques no less honed, but this time more phorensically explored; a music that consists of equal parts of space and activity, inviting the listener into taut, transcendent realms where time slows down, and all is not as it seems. “Fever, a warm poison” is an atmospheric, 18 minute opener to the album that envelops with its claustrophobic atmosphere, followed by “Inamorata”, where guitar and strings take a more prominent position amongst the dense ambience.This is quietly intense stuff, a logical descendent of the previous works on Touch, “Suspension” and “Insulation”. The closing piece, “Trailing Moss in Mystic Glow” tremors with sub-bass, shimmering guitar, and micro fine slithers of electronica, teetering on the brink of “clicks and cuts” sensibility. “In the Pendulum’s Embrace” sees Ambarchi’s sound maturing with grace and intelligence, eclipsing his previous work with a highly refined working ethic that is at once nuanced and cerebral. Never before has Van Der Roehe’s infamous aphorism, ”Less is More” been more poignant. Absolutely sublime, and intelligently constructed. [BGN]
Atmosphérique et dense, fragile et tendu, In The Pendulum’s Embrace est le nouvel exercice d’équilibre sonore méticuleux conçu par le guitariste australien Oren Ambarchi pour le label Touch. Une plongée experte dans un environnement paradoxal où la matière musicale lancinante se découvre de douces et surprenantes aspérités veloutées. visuel Oren Ambarchi
Il y a trois ans, le musicien australien Oren Ambarchi proposait déjà avec son album Grapes from the Estate – également publié sur Touch - une étrange escapade au tréfonds d’un paysage sonore tout en dépouillement, où de frissonnantes digressions de guitares venaient furtivement guider l’auditeur médusé dans un no man’s land intimiste et filandreux. Reprenant plus ou moins ce chantier sonique minimaliste où il l’avait laissé, In The Pendulum’s Embrace gagne encore en densité, rajoutant à l’opacité ambiante trouble une dose supplémentaire de profondeur atmosphérique et de virulence toute en retenue. Tout au long des trois titres qui parcourent l’album, Oren Ambarchi développe sa vision autant paradoxale et cohérente qu’originale d’une musique capable de lier dans un même phrasé musical, presque dans une même respiration de note, une tension abyssale et une fragilité instinctive. Comme la durée des morceaux le laisse entendre, le temps qui s’écoule imperturbablement comme de l’eau filtrant lentement dans une clépsydre est le meilleur allié du musicien. Son carburant onirique qui sert de matrice à une œuvre envoûtante, traçant même jusque dans ses titres (“Fever, a warm poison ”, “Trailing moss in mystic glow”) une expertise musicale de l’ambivalence portée à un niveau rarement atteint jusque-là. Pour enfoncer le clou sensible de cette œuvre à l’évanescence mystique, Oren Ambarchi élargit son champ instrumental autant qu’il dilate ses courbes musicales circonstanciées. Harmonica, piano, percussion, cloches, cordes et même voix viennent tour à tour rajouter leurs caractères introspectifs à cet étrange attelage de résonance harmonique. Imaginez Sunn O))) – dont Oren Ambarchi est un des membres itinérants les plus actifs - délestant ses drones de leur puissance électrique pour s’abandonner à une évanescence organique vibrionnante et vous aurez une idée de l’expérience sensitive et sensuelle qui vous attend à l’écoute d’In The Pendulum’s Embrace. [Laurent Catala]
Il Manifesto (Italy):
Nella lista degli artisti di ricerca più eclettici e impavidi degli ultimi anni l'australiano Oren Ambarchi è riuscito a ritagliarsi una posizione di prestigio; non solo per essere diventato uno dei nomi di punta della Touch, ma anche per aver attraversato la frontiera della sperimentazione per poi arrivare ai territori del cantautorato e del folk anglofono. Il suo nuovo album ripercorre questo cammino introspettivo attraverso tre lunghe tracce dai caratteri decisamente differenti: con Fever, a Warm Poison i toni sono oscuri e ossessivi, sorretti da bassi profondissimi e da continui incroci strumentali. Chitarra, piano e micro elementi cristallini vengono sciolti in questo fluido denso e opprimente, ma già con
Inamorata la tensione viene alleggerita e si torna con la mente alla placidità ambient di Harold Budd. La lenta metamorfosi sonora giunge a pieno compimento nel brano finale, la romantica Trailing Moss in Mystic Glow, in cui gli scarni elementi folk prendono piena forma e si trasformano in malinconiche trame musicali e sgualciti accenni vocali. Un disco dai tratti autunnali che si propone come un'opera compiuta. [m.ca.]
The Wirewool (Web):
There is a formula at play on Oren Ambarchi's new album, 'In The Pendulum's Embrace', and it's this; improvised guitar, barely audible cymbals and electronic pulses. It's so quiet, it's barely there at times. I always point to albums like this to combat 'emperor's new clothes'-type decrying from anti-avant garde cynics - every note feels like it's in exactly the right place, like the whole thing would fall apart if Ambarchi didn't know what he was doing. The whole thing moves forward as if by willpower alone, and it's pretty mesmerising.
VITAL (The Netherlands):
This is already the fourth CD for Touch by Australian sound artist Oren Ambarchi, who is known for his high quality ambient soundscapes. On the three instrumental tracks on this album Ambarchi explores the possibilities of the guitar even further than on his previous albums. Apart from the guitar, he incorporates glass harmonica, strings, bells, piano and percussion. These ingredients (with extended post-production) give the music a strong meditative, tranquil feeling. Opener Fever A Warm Poison features slow, deep pulses to which guitar patterns have been added. The second track Inamorata almost seamlessly continues this theme. After a while strings by Veren Grigorov set in, creating a beautiful mournful song. The closing track, Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow features more prominent guitar plucking to a similar backing. Given the close resemblance of these pieces, it would perhaps have been better if all tracks were mixed in to one long ambient experience, but that is just nit-picking
really. In The Pendulum's Embrace is a fine and worthy addition to the already extensive catalogue of Oren Ambarchi CDs. [FK]
Sound of Music (Sweden):
Australiensaren Oren Ambarchi har under flera år experimenterat med gitarren som källa för ljudskapande. Av den handfull skivor jag hört är ”In the Pendulum´s Embrace” den bästa. Den är mörk, men oj så vacker. Den är långsam, men oj så uttrycksfull.
Uppenbarligen har Ambarchi haft ljudens resonans i åtanke när han spelat in ”In the Pendulum´s Embrace”. Och den avskalade ljudbilden gör sitt till för att få fram både subtila och mer hörbara skiftningar. Samtidigt finns ett stort djup i ljuden, även det ett tecken på resonansens inverkan. Det är som att han öppnar upp gitarren och låter ljuden som ligger inbäddade långt ner i dess inre smyga och ibland nästan skutta fram.
Skivans tre långa låtar är nära besläktade med varandra, inte minst stämningsmässigt. Men de tar ändå olika vändningar. På ”Inamorata” liksom studsar elgitarrens i slow motion när medmusikern Veren Grigorov (enbart på denna låt) lägger an den långa, dronande stråken mot stränginstrument. Det är väldigt vackert! Möjligen leder det fel att tala om elgitarr i sammanhanget, det låter snarare som att runda distinkta ”knäpp” placeras ut i rummet och som efter själva ”knäppet” sakta rinner ur ljudbilden.
Att Ambarchi samarbetat med det experimentella metalbandet Sunn O))) känns inte märkligt när man hör ”Fever, A Warm Poison”. Ambarchi är inte på något sätt lika ruffig som Sunn O))), inte heller lika hård. Snarare finns det en värme i låten, möjligtvis en febrig sådan, men dock. Uppbyggnadsmässigt finns det ändå klara likheter, en oerhört avskalad rock som i sin långsamhet suddar ut de rytmiska konturerna. Det är väldigt effektfullt och det är nästan så att man själv fyller ut ”tomrummet” i fantasin. I Ambarchis fall blir rytmiken mer markerad allteftersom låten går.
Grunden i ”Trailing Moss in Mystic Glow” läggs även den med minimalistisk ljudskapande elgitarr. Men här finns även en akustisk gitarr som varsamt improviserar. Harmoniskt och försiktigt, och inte minst avslappnat. Ambarchi visar att han är en mycket intressant gitarrist och inte ”bara” en mycket intressant ljudkonstnär. [Magnus Olsson]
Als Musiker seinen eigenen Sound zu finden, ist eine sehr schwierige, wie auch äußerst rare Angelegenheit. Oren Ambarchi kann sich diesbezüglich glücklich schätzen. Der Klang seiner elektrischen Gitarre ist einzigartig, die musikalische Gestaltung und Ausführung seiner Kompositionen sucht ihresgleichen. In konzentrierter Manier meißelt der australische Musiker, dessen Instrument nur noch in seiner materiellen Beschaffenheit einer Gitarre gleicht, unter klanglichen Aspekten aber die Grenzbereiche zwischen Computermusik und analoger Elektronik erkundet, subharmonische Klangskulpturen aus tieftönigen, glasklaren Flagoles. Diese Töne werden zu Loops zusammengefasst, die aufgrund ihrer zeitlichen Länge nicht mehr als solche erscheinen. Hinzu kommen – im Gegensatz zu seinen früheren Werken, die nur den Fokus auf die Gitarre legten – weitere Instrumente: Ein Jazz-Schlagzeug, eine akustische Gitarre und schließlich diverse Resonanzobjekte, die auch in seinen Kollaborationen mit dem australischen Turntablisten Martin Ng verwendet wurden. Das Prinzip ist einfach, das Resultat schlichtweg umwerfend.
Soweit so gut. Dennoch muss sich Ambarchi mit seiner neuesten Arbeit »In The Pendulum’s Embrace« die Frage gefallen lassen, ob er denn nicht Gefahr laufen würde sich zu wiederholen. Spätestens seit dem sagenhaften Vorgänger »The Grapes Of The Estate« war klar, dass der Nachfolger sich nicht mehr auf das Altbewährte verlassen dürfe. Dies ist nun leider zum Teil geschehen. Nach wie vor bilden Ambarchis ätherische Loopkonstruktionen die Basis für seine Kompositionen. Eine Änderung muss also erneut über die Integration von weiteren Instrumenten herbeigeführt werden. Während bereits »Grapes Of The Estate« dieser Maxime Folge leistete und zum Beispiel auf den rhythmischen Puls eines jazzigen Schlagzeugs zurückgriff, vollzieht sich der Wandel auf »In The Pendulum’s Embrace« über die Verwendung von Streichern. Ein genialer Schachzug von Ambarchi, der allerdings viel zu kurz ausgespielt wird und lediglich in dem Stück »Inamorata« zum Zuge kommt.
Hier verwebt er seine subharmonischen Tonmeditationen, die ihm auch Eingang in die Welt von Sunn O))) und diversen Nebenprojekten gewährt haben, mit mehrmals übereinander geschichteten Streichermelodien. Die zwei weiteren Kompositionen »Fever, A Warm Poison« und »Trailing Moss In The Mystic Glow« bewegen sich erneut auf vertrautem, qualitativ hochwertigen Terrain. Dennoch ist es ernüchternd mit anzusehen, dass ein Musiker mit einem derartigen kreativen Potenzial stets innerhalb identischer musikalischer Schattierungen operiert. Seinen eigenen Sound gefunden zu haben bedeutet schließlich nicht zu stagnieren und immer wieder mit der gleichen Form zu experimentieren. Ambarchi wird nur mit einer größeren Risikobereitschaft neuen klanglichen Gehalt in seine Stücke implementieren können. Bis dahin werden auch zukünftige Veröffentlichungen entzücken können, aufregend werden sie aber gewiss nicht sein. [Raphael Smarzoch]
plan b (UK):
This is Australian guitarist/soundsmith Oren Ambarchi's sixth solo album & it finds him centering all the tracks around deep bass-like closed, airless & often sombre guitar revolution's. With melodic, emotional & warming elements appearing here & there, like flowers opening on the tracks' closed shoulders.
As the album's title suggests, things move very slowly within its confines. The three tracks last around fifteen to twenty minutes apiece. On the surface they repeat similar guitar/cymbal patterns over and over again with seemingly little textural change or variation. But there is progression here, it’s just at a snail's pace; subtle details are slowly added, as well as growing melodic and warm elements such as strings, acoustic guitars and Ambarchi’s own emotional vocal murmurs on the dying embers of the last track. Throughout the album he manages to exercise great self-discipline and control, developing the tracks at this slow pace. After repeated listening it starts to slow with its pace and movement, taking in its growing wonder & glow.
A real ‘slow burner’ in the true sense of the phrase - an album for those who are willing to wait, contemplate and slowly take in the album's allusive beauty. [Roger Batty]
This is Australian ambient guitarist Oren Ambarchi's fourth album for the Touch label, that dedicated English home for electro-acoustic and environmental sounds. The record's three extended pieces allow ample time for mood-enhancing seepage, as Ambarchi's guitar drifts beyond the sounds of a stringed thing. He uses his axe to shape low test-tone repeats, accompanied by the barest of cymbal caresses. Then, a slightly jangling chord brushes past, and a partial melody forms. String arrangements join in for "Inamorata," and cooing feedback makes a fleeting entrance on the final section. Ambarchi's work descends in a curving line from Fripp and Eno's mid-'70s collaborations, although the sense of suspension is even stronger. He has stripped his music down to a cumulative minimalism that imposes — or perhaps infiltrates — a sense of evening at its most lambent. This is the subliminal sound of stealthy creeping. (ML)
Keine Musik für hektische Momente
Bitte ein letztes Mal tief durchatmen und danach alle Körperfunktionen auf minimale Aktivität herunterfahren. „In The Pendulum´s Embrace“ ist kein Album für hektische Momente.
Trotz konventioneller Instrumentierung wagt sich OREN AMBARCHI auf dem Nachfolger zu "The Grapes Of The Estate" sehr weit auf soundorientiertes Terrain hinaus. Anfänglich fühlt man sich an den späten Output von Bohren & Der Club Of Gore erinnert, nicht zuletzt da AMBARCHI auch ein reduziertes Jazz-Kit mit an Bord hat.
Angesichts der puren Lust an der Schönheit von Sound, die der Mittelteil von „Inamorata“ ausstrahlt, mag einen vielleicht der eine oder andere Thrill Jockey Act als Referenzpunkt ins Gedächtnis kommen, aber nach und nach lösen sich alle Vergleichsmöglichkeiten in Luft und Wohlgefallen auf.
Tip für alle Freunde des Unkategoriesierbaren und dank des bewährten Touch-Artworks per se Pflichtkauf für Wozencroft-Fans
Whilst flirting with the outer limits - whether it's deeply experimental laptop exercises with Keith Rowe or the doom-laden low-end speaker worship of being a supporting Sunn O))) member. Oren Ambarchi's solo musical excursions have tended to be more gentle, introverted and accessible. It may be a lot less dense than his previously acclaimed 'Grapes from the estate' LP. But if anything, it's more successful.
Guitar, bells, drums and voice unfold unhurriedly in music that never fails to captivate. A moving and staggeringly beautiful record, he nearly made everything else this month sound shit.
VITAL (The Netherlands):
This is already the fourth CD for Touch by Australian sound artist Oren Ambarchi, who is known for his high quality ambient soundscapes. On the three instrumental tracks on this album Ambarchi explores the possibilities of the guitar even further than on his previous albums. Apart from the guitar, he incorporates glass harmonica, strings, bells, piano and percussion. These ingredients (with extended post-production) give the music a strong meditative, tranquil feeling. Opener Fever A Warm Poison features slow, deep pulses to which guitar patterns have been added. The second track Inamorata almost seamlessly continues this theme. After a while strings by Veren Grigorov set in, creating a beautiful mournful song. The closing track, Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow features more prominent guitar plucking to a similar backing. Given the close resemblance of these pieces, it would perhaps have been better if all tracks were mixed in to one long ambient experience, but that is just nit picking really. In The Pendulum's Embrace is a fine and worthy addition to the already extensive catalogue of Oren Ambarchi CDs.
if Oren Ambarchi’s collaborations with sonic foragers like Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, and Sunn 0))) is like forcing sound through a physical endurance test, then his newest full-length In The Pendulum’s Embrace throws it into the cosmos. It’s expansive, harmonious, almost spiritual in its humbling effect. It’s the playing out of sound molecules. Like its 2004 sister album, Grapes From The Estate, this solo release examines and subsequently meditates on the possibilities of using sound to tell a story, without resorting to typical sound narratives or tonal signifiers. Although this approach doesn’t provide a full picture of Ambarchi’s adaptability and musical range — check his work with Günter Müller and Philip Samartzis on Strange Love — it does enunciate a story so deliberately dragging you’d probably call it glacial if it weren’t this warm and inviting.
Blame the expanded sonic palette for his success in this regard. With acoustic or electric guitar driving each track, Ambarchi has added even more sheets of delicate, twinkling flourishes atop his trademark sub-sonic bass slabs, such as glass harmonica, bells, piano, percussion, strings on "Inamorata" (thanks to Veren Grigorov), and the first appearance of vocals, albeit treated, on "Trailing Moss in Mystic Glow" — all of which are refracted through the loop-oriented nature of the compositions. Despite the many sound sources, the music is clear, its pacing just plodding enough so the sounds aren’t rubbing shoulders. Sure, the density of the low-end is continually at odds with the crispness of the high-end, yet when entrenched together with no end in sight, the disparities erode, the differences vanish.
Maybe "tactile" is the word I should be using: these songs aren’t written, they’re shaped. Ambarchi is building on sensibilities popularized by Brian Eno, yet the big picture points to the human urge to do art as a way to abstract the physical. Amazingly, the resulting shape isn’t constructed from typical avant-garde dissonance, but from a Debussy-esque consonance, in which the richness and warmness forms an ambiguous contour lacking a clear tonal center. And here’s where the inherent physical properties of Ambarchi’s signature sound-constructions take real form: A trite drumbeat couldn’t make your coffee spill over, but two low notes seeking physical resolution, wavelengths vigorously vibrating off one another, certainly can.
It’s perhaps Ambarchi’s exaggerations of this movement that make his story that much more believable. Since he isn’t adopting a musical language to which most Western ears are accustomed, it’s all very impressionistic rather than descriptive, stories that allude rather than point. Yet it’s all very coherent. Don’t bank on Ambarchi to create an 18-minute piece like "Fever, A Warm Poison" to impart some sort of moral lesson or clearly defined payoff. You just have to trust that these ruminations are a confluence of an artist making music for over 20 years, one whose insatiable desire to create art is reflected more in his prolificacy than in the spatial, minimalistic beauty of his music. And by abruptly cutting off the last track "Trailing Moss in Mystic Glow," Ambarchi has ensured that this cosmic story is to be continued.
Bad Alchemy (Germany):
Trois ans après l'album "Grapes From the Estate", l'Australien Oren Ambarchi continue et approfondit ses explorations sonores en les accompagnant d'une palette d'instruments allant de l'harmonica au piano, en passant par la guitare et les percussions. Au travers de trois titres d'une durée de 10 à 18 minutes, la musique d'Ambarchi développe tout en douceur une musique aérienne, dense et fragile. Jouant sur les harmonies et les résonnances du son et son amplification, ce disque nous emporte dans une longue contemplation aux limites de l'abstraction.
Habitué des collaborations avec des artistes comme Otomo Yoshihide, Evan Parker, Voice Crack, Fennesz ou encore John Zorn, Oren Ambarchi cherche lui aussi à dépasser les conventions de la musique estampillée traditionnelle et opère un travail sur le son et sur les instruments pour leur faire atteindre de nouvelles limites, de nouvelles possibilités que l'on n'envisageait pas.
Principalement axé autour de la guitare, cet opus d'expérimentation ambiant souffre peut-être d'une technicité un peu rebutante dans sa démonstration, mais ce n'est pas ce genre de détails qui devrait arrêter les aficionados des artistes précédemment cités, qui sauront réserver à Oren Ambarchi la place qu'il mérite.
A noter qu'Ambarchi a été le coorganisateur du festival d'expérimentation musicale "What is Music?" en Australie, et qu'il a récemment coproduit une série télé également sur l'expérimentation musicale intitulée "Subsonics". [Xavier Cottin]
The Age (Australia):
Musician Oren Ambarchi deserves attention, writes Dan Rule.
THERE'S music that moves, there's music that affects, then there's music that sets off alarms. The work of Sydney-raised, Melbourne-based sound artist Oren Ambarchi does all three — the latter, quite literally. "About four years ago, Stephen O'Malley from Sunn 0))) was DJ'ing one of my songs at a festival and the frequencies triggered the fire alarms," he recalls over lunch. "The fire sprinkler system rained out the whole place and the fire department had to come down and evacuate everyone. "So the next day O'Malley called me and said, 'Oren, we need to work together'. That's how it all started with Sunn 0)))." Over nine years and almost 20 solo and collaborative releases — plus his work with aforementioned US ambient doom-merchants Sunn 0))), legendary experimental musician John Zorn, Mike Patton and others — Ambarchi's music has traversed the subtle extremities of sound.
Unfairly neglected in his own country, Ambarchi's reductive, pointedly minimalist and richly tonal guitar pieces have generated the kind of international attention and acclaim that most Australian artists only dream about. This year alone, he has travelled abroad for commissioned live performances and tours on six different occasions; the latest of which was as Portishead's lone Australian invitee during their curatorship of the prestigious All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Britain.
But Ambarchi's understanding of his music is a relatively straightforward one. "I think a lot of what I do is really connected to rock music," says the 38-year-old. "But it's almost like stripping it to the bones … so for some people, it becomes almost unrecognisable. It's still quite physical and it still has change, just like rock songs would, but it's all just done in a really minimal, stripped-back way. "A lot of it is actually derived from the process of elimination." Ambarchi's musical experience began in a different realm entirely. After learning the drums as a young teen in Sydney, he gravitated towards the jazz community, eventually moving to New York during the late '80s to study Jewish mysticism at a Brooklyn rabbinical college by day and dive headlong into the free-jazz scene come evening.
But it was after witnessing a live performance by legendary Japanese guitarist Keiji Haino on the Lower East Side that Ambarchi's creative expression took a dramatic turn. "It just completely blew me away. It was like this big epiphany … after seeing so many great New York musicians, I was seeing someone who didn't really have a technique. What he was doing just had so much personality that I just thought to myself, 'I want to do this, I want to play guitar like this'!"
Ambarchi's latest projects — fourth official solo album In the Pendulum's Embrace, and second album as part of Sun (a duo with Sydney producer Chris Townend) I'll Be the Same — are two of his most developed and starkly polarised to date. While Pendulum sees Ambarchi rendering some of the deepest, most shuddering pure guitar tones of his career, I'll Be the Same has the duo dabbling in the most fragile of acoustic dynamics and arcane, falsetto-laden pop. From whichever vantage point, the projects seem an odd pair. But for Ambarchi, almost predictably, they come from a similar place. "I'm just interested in stuff that draws you in," he says.
Revue et Corrigé (France):
*FINALLY AVAILABLE ON SUPER-LIMITED DELUXE VINYL EDITION!!!* Oren Ambarchi acts as a good antithesis to that other great improv luminary - Fennesz. Both artists use the guitar as a starting point for minimalist discovery and post-abstract innovation, though where Fennesz relies heavily on distortion and catharsis, Ambarchi's focus is on a much more refined, clean building of layers and delicate augmentations. For his third outing on Touch, Ambarchi's immense achievement is through his sense of timing, pace and definition - slowly building pieces up to warm, glowing echoes that use dronelike beginings and head into sumptuous soundscaped vistas. "Grapes from The Estate" is neither minimal nor abstract in the difficult sense, the added arrangement of piano, organ and even drums transforming his familiar self-restraint into an hour-long process of transformation and deep ambience. Incredible stuff from this great artist once again - highly recommended.
World's of Possibility (Blog):
Skirting nepotism here, I know. It's hard to write about Grapes from the Estate simply because Oren’s been a good friend for a few years now, so I’ll keep it brief. I was kinda astonished when Will Montgomery pasted Grapes from the Estate in The Wire: was he hearing the same record? I think Montgomery placed too much store in 'Oren Ambarchi, the experimental musician'. However, if you listen to Oren’s work - I’m thinking of his solo music here - as one thread, some search for resolution, then Grapes from the Estate is his 'first point of culmination.' It felt right that, in opening up his music to other contingencies, Oren would find his voice: if records like Insulation and Suspension were sometimes claustrophobic, the sound of someone searching for their own sound, then Grapes is the first Ambarchi record that breathes. Why is Grapes from the Estate such an incredible leap for Ambarchi? Its affective properties; its freedom; its newly won artistic assuredness. For everyone who fainted over Fennesz's Venice, this is that record's younger cousin. Grapes from the Estate is constantly surprising, and out-of-time.
Oren Ambarchi acts as a good antithesis to that other great Touch luminary - Fennesz. Both artists use the guitar as a starting point for minimalist discovery and post-abstract innovation, though where Fennesz relies heavily on distortion and catharsis, Ambarchi's focus is on a much more refined, clean building of layers and delicate augmentations. For his third outing on Touch, Ambarchi's immense achievement is through his sense of timing, pace and definition - slowly building pieces up to warm, glowing echoes that use dronelike beginings and head into sumptuous soundscaped vistas. "Grapes from The Estate" is neither minimal nor abstract in the difficult sense, the added arrangement of piano, organ and even drums transforming his familiar self-restraint into an hour-long process of transformation and deep ambience. Incredible stuff from Touch once again - highly recommended.
Foxy Digitalis (web):
Grapes From the Estate is the latest studio offering from Australian guitar maestro Oren Ambarchi. Though he exists in the outer realms of treated guitar experimentalism, where folks like Jim O'Rourke, Fennesz and Keith Rowe regularly dwell, arguably none in the field tempers his microtonality with such resonating warmth and simplicity. Any part of these four tracks would make the perfect bed for stretching out and gently wafting away on waves of rippling harmonics. Ambarchi conveys dimensions of possibility with the most plaintive brush strokes, whether he's exploring fluctuating tonalities on "Corkscrew" or weaving webs of jazz complexity as he does brilliantly on the haunting "Girl With the Silver Eyes", before notes eventually scatters into a trickling fountain of chimes and drones. The longer "Remedios The Beauty" sees his minimalism brushed with slight percussion and acoustic guitar flourishes where the 20 min "Stars Aligned, Webs Spun" offers much softer aural pillows for stretching and drifting. Throughout the production is crystal yet warm, and each tone given more than enough space to grow and reverberate through the expansive gate of Ambarchi's hyperbolic dream chamber. [8/10 - LJ]
Oren Ambarchi. This Australian dude might very well be the king of drone these days, but, really, he turns that whole "genre" on its head. Dropping harshness/ incoherence and unchartable seas of sound in favor of harmony and rhythm, the end result sounds like an update of Brian Eno's vision of ambience. At times tremendously more captivating than strict ambience, none of its characteristic beauty and grace is lost. I try my damnedest to stay abreast of the newest in music, but, fuck me, a lot of stuff out there is boring as hell, not to mention of questionable merit. Ignoring structure and dynamism is all well and good, but for God's sake, find a way to make it essential and unique. By opting for more conventional forms for his unconventional sounds, Ambarchi crafts a delightfully accessible and charming experimental album. I can't say it's the most essential album of the year, or even the one I'd most pressingly tell people to listen to, but I can say that I've enjoyed it immensely, and it indicates a possible evolution for this obscure sect of music. Hell, you'll have something half- palatable to play for your friends when they ask about that weird music you listen to. [Leveer]
His buddy Fennesz gets all the ink as the next generation of guitar, but Ambarchi is the more nuanced and tactile player, still physically invoking that instrument, but making it sound like an abstract noisemaker without the help of a Powerbook. His ‘tone’ is somewhere between gamelan gong and an ungrounded wire, with subterranean throbs bristling with static and shorted-out crackle. You can feel every touch of his finger, every gesture of his body coming through the strings. The four pieces here created a timeless space much like Morton Feldman or Alvin Lucier. While Fennesz basically treaded water for Venice, Ambarchi further expounded on his ideas and actually went in a more accessible direction for his third album for Touch. The key is in how Oren alchemically altered his telltale sound, so that his guitar could slyly be pulled out of the mix and replaced with piano, bells, ride cymbals, Hammond, or nylon-string, cycling, sustaining, and mutating even as it retained its hypnotic effect on listeners. A favorite DJ tool for SUNN O)))) for its potent rumble, it could’ve also been sold to indie kids who like their post-rock crisp and melodic, all the while retaining its poetic, effervescent quality.
Sitting poolside about 50 feet from the ocean at the Mayan Riviera, which CD do you expect to sound the best? Chances are you wouldn't guess Oren Ambarchi's Grapes From the Estate. Pinpoint tones long enough to lay out with and pitches shift softer than an Italian gearbox. One of the most beautiful sounds of 2004.
Instrumentals from Aussie guitar experimenter.
Australia Oren Ambarchi evades ambient cliché thanks to a gift for understated melody. Even at a potentially patience-sapping 55 minutes, Grapes From The Estate is his most engrossing album to date. Girl With The Silver Eyes has lovely guitar notes bursting unexpectedly over the disquieting background throb and, elsewhere, hypnotic bell tones and acoustic twangs slowly wreath themselves around Remedios The Beauty. it’s like the weird, beautiful music you think you only hear in dreams. [David Sheppard]
The Montreal Mirror (Canada):
For his third solo effort, Aussie experimentalist Ambarchi goes beyond his signature prepared guitar explorations into a world of tonal purity and melodic beauty. Clocking in at just under an hour, the first of four tracks begins with a gradual layering of tones that slowly build into a shifting landscape of sound. The second track hits the ground trotting with random melodies of playfully stripped down guitar, drums and Hammond organ. Ambarchi does an amazing job of drawing the casual listener deep into his atmospheric world with a meditative intimacy that does a lot with so little. Minimalism at its most sublime. 9/10 [Raf Katigbak]
Much easier to stomach is the third disc from Australia’s Oren Ambarchi. Grapes from the Estate (Touch) effortlessly abstracts Ambarchi’s guitar playing to sheer, unfurling timbre trails. The resulting four-part drone suite is spellbinding. Rigging his instrument to transmit ionospheric frequencies, Ambarchi occasionally cracks the hum channel with brushed snares and the odd elegiac strum. Expertly fermented, Grapes from the Estate yields a potent vintage.
Milk Factory (UK):
Oren Ambarchi is one of a growing number of guitarists whose music betrays little sign of its instrumental origin: Christian Fennesz, Christopher Willitts and Joseph Suchy may also be numbered as members of this relatively new clan, though practitioners such as Keith Rowe and Fred Frith have already certainly set sufficient precedents in the past couple of decades.
Ambarchi's first track on his third release for Touch begins in test-tone territory with smooth, neutral hums gently repeated like the electronic memory of a lighthouse's fog warning. All the activity on Corkscrew occurs at the edges of these hums whose momentary lips and curls delineate the border between silence and sound. These clicks serve as a sonic foregrounding mechanism, provoking memories of unwanted vinyl scratches though without the associated frustration. Somehow the contrast established between warm tone and unpredictable click emphasises awareness of both elements and maintains attention over the track's nine-plus minutes. Corkscrew imparts the dreambound feeling of surging through thick fog in the middle of the night, no star- or moonlight available to guide you.
The Girl With The Silver Eyes retains its predecessors? hums and clicks, but stirs in note chimes and clusters which bear a greater resemblance to chandelier crystals falling in slow motion than notes sounded on anything as mundane as a guitar. The result is strange and just a little unsettling. Simultaneously somnambulant and purposeful, if a Faberge egg were ever recorded opening and closing via the agency of its mysteriously intricate clockwork this might be the result. Remedios The Beauty borrows its title from a character in Gabriela Garcia Marquez?s novel One Hundred Years Of Solitude and reveals a more direct melodicism than its predecessors. The first five minutes might be described as a folk song heard through the sonic equivalent of a frosted pane of glass, or the sensation of stroking a tiger?s fur whilst wearing surgeon's gloves. Later, small bells or gongs sound like wine glass rims circled by tongue-wetted fingers. There's a sense of leisurely (the track is fifteen and a half minutes long) progression, which navigates a gradual change of mood from carefree to subtly threatened. The final track, Stars Aligned, Webs Spun is very minimal, more like a ritual echo which accrues the gentlest of reverberations over its twenty-minute length.
Grapes From The Estate is a beautiful piece of work, simultaneously mysterious and accessible. Its contemplativeness creates a space within which the listener can react to the music without a sense of being manipulated by the normal dynamics of melodic or even ambient music. Recommended. [Colin Buttimer]
This is a somewhat perplexing release from the usually excellent Ambarchi. It’s simplistic, even friendly. Mind you, the Touch imprint has a bit of history in putting out relatively user-friendly releases by otherwise gnarly musicians, including Ambarchi’s own Insulation from 1999 and Suspension from 2001, but I was still taken aback by Grapes From the Estate. As most of Ambarchi’s recent work has been with the likes of Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Fennesz, and Keith Rowe, I was expecting music as sparse as this but perhaps not quite so obviously tonal and familiar. This wine turned out to be much sweeter than anticipated.
He opens things up with “Corkscrew,” a slow-moving, hypnotic piece where Ambarchi’s electric guitars are highly processed and sound like pure computer tones; the piece evolves around lush, ringing fifths. Ambarchi has long experimented with the electric guitar, stripping it of all its rock and expressionist associations and treating it as a pure sound source (something he does quite brilliantly on Flypaper, his duet with Rowe, and on his drone duet with Johan Berthling, My Days Are Darker Than Your Nights, whose lush carpet of tones and loops might be seen as a predecessor for this release). In a sense, here he’s using the techniques acquired in more challenging situations to construct the electroacoustic equivalent of pop songs. Certainly the quasi-progression of “Girl with the Silver Eyes” justifies that description, despite its inclusion of the odd squeal and sine tone. For more of this, skip right to the sing-song “Remedios the Beauty” (good to see that Ambarchi has been reading his Gabriel Garcia Marquez, by the way) which is the most Fennesz-like track here. However, just as Ambarchi builds up these two middle tracks with their melodies and chord progressions (many built around multiple guitars, percussion, piano, and organ), the long finale “Stars Aligned, Webs Spun” returns to just electric guitars. The feel on this last track almost reminds me of Ben Monder’s “Propane Dream” filtered through one of Jim O’Rourke’s sunnier moments (or through some of the lovely melancholy of a Grails song).
All the songs loop on and on, seemingly infinitely, succeeding through the repetition of and simple elaboration on very basic sonic materials. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking on Grapes From the Estate, but that’s not really the point either. Its patient incandescence is reward enough. [Jason Bivins]
On a day when your transmission drops to the asphalt and the humidity's enough to fry brains, Oren Ambarchi's resonating, disembodied guitarisms establish a soothing alternate universe. With his third solo project for Touch - following 2001's Suspension and 2000's Insulation - the Australian guitarist unwraps the warm chilliness of past efforts, organizing a languid, abstract world of lulling harmonics and slow-drip tones with the on/off attenuation of strings, bells and percussion.
Raised in Sydney, and of Sephardic Jewish heritage, Ambarchi's performed and recorded with labelmate Christian Fennesz, Sachiko M, John Zorn, Keith Rowe, Phill Niblock, Toshimaru Nakamura, Martin Ng, and others. But while he's been performing live since 1986, guitar in tote, I'd prefer to keep Ambarchi as a one-dimensional wraith flittering about my cramped apartment: Nothing like seeing a guy sweating over knobs and cables to drain the magic from twilight overtones.
As is, Grapes from the Estate's ambient clusters navigate a field of emptiness. The first composition, "Corkscrew", would make an ideal soundtrack for one of Bill Viola's single-channel watery videos, especially the moments in which a microscopic lens outlines the surprisingly complex contours of each droplet. The piece consists of electric guitars, but sounds like an echoed tone generator, the occasional circles surrounding a submerged stone, or a fading gong.
"Girl with the Silver Eyes" bulks up with Hammond organ and drums, but casts a similar shadow. The most noticeable difference is a fairly distinguished bass overload. These gentle, heavy pulsations are the only cacophonous wavelengths on this album, and they're pretty minor. Otherwise, at the near-midway point, regulatory brushes and snare wraps surface, followed by an intermittent kabuki melody that rises like an afterthought. The track resolves as the pantomime of a quietly corroding music box unleashes its last gasps.
"Remedios the Beauty" opens with a hook and maintains the "riff" throughout: Mixing acoustic and electric guitars, piano, bells, drums, and the strings of Veren Grigorov and Peter Hollo, it comes off like sheets of crystalline snow spiked with a looped Four Tet yarn or a twangy western Matmos two-step at its center. Entering the pop realm, it's the most obviously musical, least enigmatic of the compositions. Still, it works in setting up the starkness of the final 20-minute "Stars Aligned, Web Spun", which brings the album full-circle. Ambarchi, again alone with this electric guitars, ups the enveloping absence of "Corkscrew", doubling its duration. Over time, the sprawl unfurls like found inhuman frequencies: Ambarchi's patience in allowing calm tones to live healthy, long lives creates a blinking grid. It's what I imagine a black and white Lite Brite would sound like if it were allowed a temporary whisper.
No matter how camouflaged, a guitar is a guitar. Though it may be hard to believe this flickering six-string sunspot emerged from an instrument that established Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, Ambarchi makes his solo talk without resorting to a single spell-breaking finger-tap, mathy scale, or screeching whammy bar. Wonder what he could do with "Hot for Teacher"... [Brandon Stosuy]
"...With Grapes from the Estate Ambarchi has introduced a wider variety of sounds and also given the pieces of music even more time to develop. So we find four long tracks, with the Suspension style tones and drones, mixed with piano, chimes, soft brush-played drumming, and, perhaps most surprisingly, unobscured guitar chords..."
I've been following the solo work of this Australian guitarist for a few years now, and am enjoying each release more and more. His music inhabits an area of slowly developing, languid guitar-based electronic compositions which bears comparison to other releases on Touch by the likes of Rafael Toral and Fennesz. Whether they share influences, there's also a certain similarity with later Seefeel releases, where Mark Clifford sounded bent on reproducing the moods of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works II (Warp) with a guitar as his starting point. These more ambient explorations culminated with the album Ch- Vox (Rephlex), but while that had a cold and brittle sound, Oren Ambarchi's work is notable for being both calming and inviting.
Ambarchi's last solo release, Suspension (Touch), involved long, deep tones punctuated by dull pops and shifts as repeating samples abruptly cut off and start again in overlapping phrases. Slowed and elongated sounds may no longer bear much, or any, resemblance to guitar. Maybe a better point of comparison is with less noisy Oval tracks. With Grapes from the Estate Ambarchi has introduced a wider variety of sounds and also given the pieces of music even more time to develop. So we find four long tracks, with the Suspension style tones and drones, mixed with piano, chimes, soft brush-played drumming, and, perhaps most surprisingly, unobscured guitar chords.
The album warms up with “Corkscrew,” which is in the older style, and serves as a leader into the more diverse sounds of “Girl with the Silver Eyes.” This second track opens with a series of abrupt tones that click in and out of existence. Softer bass sounds are introduced to complement these, followed by muted drumming. Where others might have introduced a clear rhythm, Ambarchi allows the drums to serve as texture, using artificially extended cymbals as gentle punctuation. The chiming strum of a guitar slowly takes prominence, shifting in speed, pitch and stereo space as the track progresses, reminiscent of the more free experimentation of his first solo album.
“Remedios the Beauty” starts with clusters of looping notes, which are allowed to quietly rub against each other slowly shifting phrases, before suddenly being pared back to a repeating bass pattern. From here the track builds back up with the muted ringing of bells and bowls, before being joined by distant strings and finally settling into a repeating series of chords played on acoustic guitar and piano. This is by far the most conventional piece of music I've heard from Ambarchi solo, sounding something like a slow instrumental passage from his "pop" band Sun as a swung drum part is introduced, but still underpinned by his trademark processed guitar loops. To give you an idea of scale, this one clocks in at a mere quarter of an hour in length.
The album closes with “Stars Aligned, Webs Spun,” a 20 minute track that returns to the slow build of electric guitar tones. It's the kind of track which those who never enjoyed ambient music may dismiss, saying "nothing happens," but attentive listening reveals many details as very quiet tremelo playing augments the more heavily processed sounds. There is an extremely delicate interplay between the soft higher chords and the sometimes quavering and shuddering bass notes, which reminds me of what separates ambience from new age - the hints of disquiet stop the over all effect from being cloying.
When writing reviews I try to steer well clear of gushing, because I know when I read a review I really just want to know what something sounds like and get a little context, so I can assess for myself whether I want to check it out. The risk is obviously that people are left only with clinical descriptions that may make an album sound boring. So I should stress that after repeat listens Grapes from the Estate has really sunk its hook into my brain and I find it very moving. If you enjoy any of the music I've referred to in this review, I would thoroughly recommend you take the time to check this release out. [Michael Upton]
Ambarchi’s third solo outing on Touch is a solo affair in the truest sense of the word. Aside from some strings contributions by Veren Grigorov and Peter Hollo on "Remedios The Beauty", Ambarchi plays all other instruments - organ, drums, piano, and, of course, guitars - himself. Conventional instrumentation doesn’t mean conventional sound, however, as he often recasts his guitar sound to a point where it loses whatever recognizable qualities it typically has. Listeners familiar with the previous works Insulation (1999) and Suspension (2001) will know that anyone expecting raw feedback or solo pyrotechnics should look elsewhere as Ambarchi is uninterested in such familiar, clichéd approaches to the guitar. Instead he uses the instrument impressionistically to generate sonic fields that slowly mass and evolve.
The album's comprised of four long tracks, the first two in the ten-minute range and the latter two fifteen and twenty minutes respectively. The mood is established at the outset by "Corkscrew", a meditative piece that builds slowly, its ambient tones seemingly awakening from slumber to gradually overlap, with starbursts popping faintly in the background. More expansive is "Girl with the Silver Eyes" whose wayward tones, organ, and delicate guitar filigrees resound amidst a relaxed base of drum brushes. "Remedios the Beauty" veers closest to conventional narrative structure, with a delineable progression that unfolds naturally. Its opening array of clicking, flickering tones gradually settles into hypnotically repeating patterns. Midway through, the piece opens up with the addition of tuned bells and string textures, and then turns propulsive, even slightly funky, with animated drum patterns, moody piano accents, and acoustic guitar strums. The last track, "Stars Aligned, Web Spun", appeared already under the title "Stacte.4B Ver.2" on the Tigerbeat6 compilation Goodnight: Music To Sleep By but it fits comfortably alongside the other pieces even though, generated solely by guitar, it’s more extremely ambient in character.
While the music is abstract in its disavowal of conventional melody, whatever off-putting associations the term might possess hardly apply in this case as the mood throughout is bucolic and the style thoroughly accessible. Not all of Ambarchi's recorded appearances are so becalmed, however, as his drumming stint with the Australian free noise group Phlegm shows, an experience that seem light years removed from the restrained artistry on display here. Like the idyllic outdoor photographs by Jon Wozencroft that adorn the album packaging, Grapes From The Estate offers an inviting space that’s peaceful and intimate. [Ron Schepper]
Other Music (USA):
After several releases as the drummer for the somewhat infamous Australian free noise combo Phlegm, and a duo release with drummer Robbie Avenaim on Tzadik in 1999 as a part of their Radical Jewish Culture series, Oren Ambarchi (apparently inspired by the Mego crew as well as Morton Feldman and Alvin Lucier) began experimenting with the electric guitar extending its tonal possibilities via a vast array of pedals and other electronics. These beginnings led to Insulation, his first solo release for the Touch label in 1999. A modest effort, its densely layered drones only hinted at the carefully sculpted sounds to come but exposed him to a new audience and a new host of collaborators including Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, and more recently Johan Berthling. It was not until his second full-length Suspension (2001) that Ambarchi fully began to define his overall sound. An unmistakably monolithic gesture towards blurring the lines between movement and stasis, Suspension defined a new kind of ambience that had more to do with presence and gradual shifting melodic patterns than the more detail oriented allusions of his previous solo full-length.
Grapes From the Estate continues where Suspension left off. The first track, "Corkscrew" slowly layers short electric guitar loops to haunting effect, a fitting introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the pieces to build off of. And building is in some respects the direction that Ambarchi's latest installment focuses on. Adding organ, drums, piano, tuned bells, percussion and strings to his already dense compositions, Ambarchi slowly weaves each layer into the mix. Shifting from moments of pure sound to almost song-like structures, Grapes From the Estate excels at pulling the listener in and rewards with subtle arrangements and melodic percussive textures. While this juxtaposition may seem to be jarring on paper, Ambarchi lets each sound evolve in such a gradual manner that nothing sounds out of place or forced. An intimate and personal document of one the more singularly focused voices in the contemporary experimental scene. Highly recommended. [KH]
De Tijd (Belgium):
De Australiër Oren Ambarchi is van verschillende markten thuis. Na tot midden jaren negentig aan freejazz verwante rock en metal in de band Phlegm te exploreren, zoekt hij vlak voor de eeuwwisseling rustiger paden op. Met Chris Townend, een man die Ambarchi ook bijstaat voor opname en productie, houdt hij er sindsdien het onconventionele singer-songwriterproject Sun op na. Daarnaast werkt de dertiger ook onder zijn eigen naam. Solo hanteert Ambarchi de ‘tabletopguitar’, een plat op de tafel rustende, aan elektronica verbonden elektrische gitaar waarmee hij nummers brouwt die zich aan de wetten van de zwaartekracht en de tijd trachten te ontwortelen. ‘Grapes from the Estate’ is, na ‘Suspension’ uit 2001 en ‘Insulation’ uit 2000, Ambarchi’s derde soloalbum voor het Britse label Touch. Op zijn nieuweling houdt hij vast aan zijn onderhand vertrouwde stramien: met een groot respect voor de stilte bespeelt hij op een Spartaanse manier zijn gitaar. Dat leidt andermaal tot lange geluidsflappen die zich tussen hemel en aarde lijken te bevinden (en die in de verte overigens aan Brian Eno herinneren). Op ‘Grapes from the Estate’ voegt Ambarchi enkele nieuwe instrumenten toe. Daardoor klinkt zijn geluid zowel meer gediversifieerd als gelaagd. Zo duiken in het knappe ‘Girl With the Silver Eyes’ een hammondorgel en drums op. ‘Remedios the Beauty’ bevat dan weer piano, klokkenspel, en violen (door Veren Gigorov en Peter Hollo). Ambarchi bevindt zich in topvorm in het vierde en laatste nummer ‘Stars Aligned, Webs Spun’. Zijn meer dan twintig minuten durende gitaarimprovisatie draait rond niet meer dan een herhalende toon en een langzaam aanzwellende drone. Met die hyperminimalistische inzet creëert de Australiër een verstilde schoonheid, een uit overlappende toonvibraties opgetrokken hymne die letterlijk tijdloos is. [Ive Stevenheydens]
Urban Magazine (Belgium):
Australiër Oren Ambarchi pikt de draad weer op, waar hij die met het sublieme 'Suspension' uit 2001 liet liggen. Op het eerste zicht verschilt 'Grapes From The Estate' niet zo veel van de bijna ademloze schoonheid van zijn voorganger maar het verrassingseffect is grotendeels verdwenen. Op 'Corkscrew' en 'Stars Aligned, Webs Spun' vullen spaarzame en sobere akoestische gitaarlicks de ruimte. Op 'Girl With The Silver Eyes' introduceert Ambarchi een hammondorgeltje en wat drums. Op het uitgesponnen 'Remedios The Beauty' wordt het klankpalet nog verder aangedikt met piano, percussie en zelfs strijkers. [Peter Wullen]
The notion of musicians hunkered over their laptops, sitting still in the glow of the screen, not moving at all except for their fingers, paints a rather dull performance picture of what is often sonically quite exciting. So when organic/real/live instruments are brought into the mix, it makes the whole thing that much more alive and approachable and personal. Thus our appreciation of guitar-wielding electronicists (and fellow Touch label recording artists) Christian Fennesz and Oren Ambarchi. Fennesz with his sun dappled, "Venice" California sunshine-y shimmer, and Oren Ambarchi with his less-is-more, minimalist pointalism. Both use the guitar to interact with the computer, but where Fennesz paints lush dense soundscapes, of thick harmonies and dreamy buzz, Ambarchi takes a way more minimal approach on Grapes From The Estate, spreading notes out into lazy barely there melodies, and loose frameworks of subtle glitchery and gentle strum. Occasionally, drums enter the mix, but only as a shuffling afterthought, lending the sound a definite jazzy post rock vibe. Imagine Oval's glitchy and muffled underwater murmer, but played on a guitar instead of being assembled from skipping cds. There is that sort of hiccupping rhythmic element present, but it's much more an innate part of the song, and these are most definitely -songs-. Instead of long 'pieces', these tracks are structured like actual songs, melodies appear and disappear, recur and subtly shift throughout, there are almost-choruses, and some of the motifs are quite catchy (although subtly so). Most of the record is dark and glacial, stepping carefully through a vast expanse of space, except for the album's centerpiece "Remidios The Beauty", where the pace picks up just a bit, and Ambarchi's guitar / laptop interface produces an almost bouncy melody, that while being slightly more upbeat, still retains all of its dreamy sleepiness. This is the perfect mix of Kompakt style pop ambient, minimalist post rock, and those dark and rumbling drones we all love so much.
Two salient points stand out in Oren Ambarchi’s fine new album. Conceptually, the four pieces utilize a surprisingly song-like structure, albeit one that’s drastically extended and iterated in languid fashion. Formally, many of the guitar sounds share an unusual element. This latter becomes apparent from the very opening of the first track, “Corkscrew”. It’s made up of a series of humming tones, very organ-y in nature, but every tone is introduced with a kind of plosive click, as if each is being turned on independently and the sound of the switch itself is retained. This lends the piece an odd, almost a-temporal quality, as though individual hums are spontaneously generating in the sound space, blooming and overlapping each other in three-dimensional fashion. I’m reminded of a work that I can’t quite put my finger on (perhaps Bags readers can help me out), wherein a series of tones is triggered by the composer (I’m thinking maybe Ashley or ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny) saying, “Start now” in an irregular rhythm. This hard/soft aspect is both prickly and satisfying, keeping the listener teetering in giddy unbalance. The midrange tones are soon accompanied by shuddering low ones in a fairly regular cadence. It’s around this point that you become aware of the larger regularity of the piece, of its slowly lilting sense of song and it begins to read almost like a lullaby. It expires with a small, gorgeously soft explosion. “Corkscrew” turns out to have been something of a prelude for the remaining works which amplify and elaborate on issues it raises. Throughout the disc, the pop-hum element is omnipresent as is the repetitive structure. Ambarchi has often tended toward the relatively tonal in the past but here, he lets that side of his persona pour out unabashedly. Because of this (and because of the label), there will doubtless be comparisons raised with Fennesz (with whom he’s recently worked in the Four Gentlemen of the Guitar quartet) but, while there’s some commonality, Ambarchi appears to have largely different concerns, including little abstractly fractured pop nostalgia. “The Girl With the Silver Eyes” introduces brushed drums and zither-like guitar (faint echoes of Laraaji!), slathered onto the drones like icing on a cake, beguiling the listener with sheer lusciousness. In terms of quasi-pop structural allusions, things ratchet to their peak on “Remedios the Beauty”. The tempo is picked up to a gentle trot, there’s something of a melody in play, and the brushed drums become more insistent. Small morsels are appended: a faint raised pitch here, a small spray of static there, but you have to listen hard to notice them as you tend to be lulled by the sonic bliss. When the “ensemble” drops out leaving only a spare scaffolding of low tones, it’s almost (well, not almost, but at least slightly reminiscent of) a bass break in a funk tune. One of the lovelier moments in the disc occurs as elements reappear after this interlude, bells, surges of muted guitar and, eventually, brooding strums of same, accompanied by a shuffling cymbals ‘n’ brushes beat. A descending, four-note piano motif, long-held notes taking about 15 seconds per cycle, becomes the central figure for the remainder of the piece, forming a delicious, obsessive and stubbornly opposing force to the rhythm. The final track, “Stars Aligned, Webs Spun”, pulls back a bit from the relative delirium, playing off a clear, two-note figure (as always, with the popping intro) against low, sputtering tones, a calm, if bleak coda. “Grapes from the estate” is very much of a piece, four variations on a lovely conceptual theme. Not an accession, but a gentle nod toward Ambarchi’s melodic sensibility, the music has certainly been strengthened and reinforced by the more overtly severe work of past years, imparting to these pieces a spine which may otherwise have been lacking. It will be interesting indeed, in a prospective pendulum swing between these poles (and perhaps others), to hear how the discoveries made herein tinge his subsequent music. [Brian]
All Music Guide (USA):
Proceeding from Suspension and informed by Oren Ambarchi's work in the song-based group Sun, Grapes from the Estate adds yet another beautiful installment to his growing discography. Definitely of the same lineage as the guitarist's previous albums for Touch, this one sees him perfect his art - the four pieces sound purer and even more focused - and expand his instrumental palette. The opening and closing pieces come closer than what you'd expect: multitracked guitar loops consisting of fragmented tonal melodies coupling abstraction with a sense of sweetness and peacefulness. The 20-minute Stars Aligned, Webs Spun is slightly slow to gather momentum, but its awkward rearrangement of cut-out notes and chords eventually builds up to a delightful understated tune. Corkscrew is the perfect example of what Ambarchi has been aiming to do for the previous five years. In the other two pieces, the guitarist adds extra instruments to offer fully-arranged music hinting at the melancholia of post-rock while retaining his highly idiosyncratic signature. Girl with the Silver Eyes simply adds sharply-cut organ notes to the web of looped guitars, its tones actually very close to Ambarchi's guitar sound. There is also a little bit of drums, an instrument given a more prominent role in Remedios The Beauty, along with acoustic guitar, piano, bells and percussion. A gorgeous piece, this one opens doors to new grounds for Ambarchi to explore. Highly recommended. [François Couture]
VITAL (The Netherlands):
When Touch released the first Oren Ambarchi I was surprised to see the work of such an unknown man on such a well-known label, and to be honest, back then I wasn't that impressed with 'Insulation'. Things changed over the years a lot. Ambarchi is not a guy fooling around with guitar sounds and computer, but foremost he plays guitar and he improvises with others - countless CDs are the result. His second solo work for Touch, 'Suspension' was already a more personal album but now he takes matters to his own completely. The first piece is like Oren Ambarchi live: playing a few notes, lots of silence - or rather: space - between the notes and nothing else. But on 'Girl With The Silver Eyes' he add to a similar guitar playing also drums and hammond organ, however they are also very sparsely used, like a few small blocks here and there and not throughout. Unlike 'Remedios The Beauty', in which percussion, piano, strings (the only instruments played by others) play a more continous role in the music, and it almost becomes a lounge music piece, or maybe an one man Town & Country. And then the final movement takes us back down, just electric guitars again, but it seems that this is almost a sparser piece of music then the opening piece. A single note is played over and over again, but with various sustains (although these differences only work on a very small level. If you are still looking for a good introduction to the solo work of Ambarchi, here's one. Play this and then a lot of his work with others fall to place too. And currentely on tour again in Europe. No reason to miss out. (FdW)
Ambarchi's third solo piece for Touch echoes Cylob's 'Mod Bell's, in its construction from a variety of gongs and tones. It's not all contemplative soul food, however, the well-rounded sounds which both open and close proceedings serving to cocoon the more melodicious central tracks from outside influence, allowing Reichian delight 'Remedios The Beauty' to twist and turn upon it's own axis seemingly indefinitely. Lush. [Kingsley Marshall]
The Wire (UK):
Oren Ambarchi's latest, his 3rd for Touch, begins with a sinuous track exploring the soft, warm tunes with which his guitar playing is most associated. The notes loop gracefully, swerving as they go. There's a well gauged decay and an appealing capacity for low-register wobbling: Ambarchi can treat the guitar as essentially a tone generator. Pluck and twang are suppressed and the ear is asked to home in on the repeating notes themselves. But this focus on sound in itself is only half the story. It is brought together with the arch pop leanings that are given full head in Ambarchi's group Sun. The second track, "The Girl With The Silver Eyes", begins with looping tones but the atmosphere changes completely with the entry of a brush caressed snare drum. The loops are slowly overlaid with percussion, Hammond organ and strange, spangling guitar chords (all played by ambarchi himself). The result is a wistful lyricism with allegiances floating somewhere between tune and tone. The next piece, "Remedios The Beauty", at one pleasingly queasy point folds in on itself, dropping away to play deep, low tones against resonant bells. But Ambarchi oversweetens the mix with strings and a descending piano phrase that soon hangs heavy.
More satisfying is the final track, the 20 minute long "Stars Aligned, Web Spun". The wavering of the gong-like main guitar note gives the piece a sustaining ambiguity. Slowly, more tuneful material gathers around it and the piece moves into an easy-on-the-ear post-rock pastoral. Yet it's hardly challenging. There are plenty of strengths to this album: an open, improvisatory feel; a sound that's both dense and unfussy about hiss and loop-point clicks; a skilful layering of elements. But Ambarchi's personal third stream isn't as persuasive as some of his past work - yet. [Will Montgomery]
Frankfurter Rundschau (Germany):
Oren Ambarchi aus Neuseeland hat sich in den letzten zwölf Monaten in Europa auf den Agenden der Nischen-Musik einen Namen gemacht. Neben unzähligen Kooperationen im Bereich atonaler und experimenteller Musik wusste er vor allem mit seinem Duo SUN und deren wunderbar-traurigen, superlangsamen Gitarrenrock zu begeistern. Auf den vier sehr langen "Stücken" seines neuen Solo-Albums, soviel sei den SUN-Freunden gesagt, gibt es keinen Gesang und auch nur ab und an Rhythmen. Trotzdem erscheinen die Stücke durchaus logisch in Ambarchis Weiterentwicklung ruhiger, stoischer Momente von SUN. Viele der verwendeten Instrumente (Glocken, Geigen, Percussions) lassen sich in ihrer Digitalisierung bzw. Verfremdung nur noch vage erahnen, und doch ist klar, dass "Grapes From The Estate" kein reines Computer-Album ist. Man muss sich Zeit nehmen, dann entdeckt man die Schönheit und Größe dieser Landschaften
Time Out New York (USA):
His Voice (Czechia):
Poslech obou recenzovaných alb z britské stáje Touch vyžaduje schopnost oprostit se od každodenního shonu a zcela se zastavit, nebo? obsahují opravdu velice pozvolna vyvíjející se hudební nápl?, v níž hrají nemalou roli hranice slyšitelnosti i oby?ejné (ale pro mnohé také dosti vzácné) ticho. Pro oba hudebníky jsou tyto novinky jejich z?ejm? v?bec nejpoklidn?jšími pracemi (nutnost kvalitní zvukové aparatury a izolace od okolí), v charakteru zpracování a zvukovém rejst?íku již však mezi nimi mnoho sty?ných ploch nenajdeme. V Sydney narozený Oren Ambarchi pokra?uje v experimentování se zvukem kytar – i když na desce hraje i na bicí, klavír nebo hammondky – a p?edevším pak v obsesi jednotlivými tóny. Ambarchi zcela upouští od ‚logické‘ snahy o tvorbu souvislých melodií a namísto toho se no?í do fascinujícího sv?ta barev, délek a intenzity tón?, tedy t?ch nejzákladn?jších stavebních kamen?. Každému brnknutí rád ponechává dostatek prostoru a ?asu a poslucha?i tak nabízí p?íležitost dosyta vnímat jejich chv?ní a r?zné tvá?e. Tóny se zvolna zaplétají do smy?ek a v duchu minimalistického p?ístupu jsou kladeny do n?kolika málo vrstev, díky ?emuž se jednak zachovává absolutní transparentnost struktury skladeb a jednak vznikají plnohodnotné hudební motivy – koneckonc? tento jasn? sledovatelný proces p?em?ny shluku tón? ve smysluplný celek pat?í k nejúchvatn?jším rys?m nahrávky. Minimum zvukových zdroj? s sebou nese riziko šlápnutí vedle, Ambarchi ovšem vybírá umn? a ke zm?nám – a? obvykle velmi jemným – p?istupuje d?íve než zavládne p?ílišná rozvlá?nost (snad jen s výjimkou záv?re?né dvacetiminutové Stars Aligned, Webs Spun, jejíž efekt se p?i nedostate?ném soust?ed?ní blíží prášku na spaní). Za nejzajímav?jší po?in asi m?žeme ozna?it zvukov? nejpln?jší a zárove? nejbarevn?jší, post-rockem zaván?jící kus Remedios The Beauty, v n?mž se úvodní milá cvakavá smy?ka zni?ehonic propadne, tempo se zpomalí a k základu se postupn? pomalu p?idají nejen dlouho zn?jící zvonky, ale posléze i smy?ce (Veren Grigorov a Peter Hollo), klavír a lehké jazzové bicí a perkuse. Zatímco Ambarchiho desku provází d?myslná preciznost, d?raz na detail, akustické teplo a k?iš?álová ?istota zvuk?, zkušený norský bard Geir Jenssen (Biosphere) vše utápí v nejspodn?jších patrech. Po?átky Autour de la Lune nutno hledat v archivu Radio France, kde Geir objevil dramatizaci románu Julese Verna Cesta na m?síc ze 60. let. Uchvácen faktem, že skute?né lety Ameri?an? na náš p?irozený satelit se z velké ?ásti odehrály tak, jak o nich v 19. století fantazíroval Verne, se rozhodl toto album tentokrát nezam??it na jeho polární domovinu, ale tam nahoru, do vesmíru. Použil ?ásti zmín?né dramatizace a zvuky nahrané na orbitální stanici Mir a s p?ídavkem vlastního zvukového materiálu vytvo?il vskutku ‚vet?elecky‘ tajemný opus o devíti ?ástech. Naprostá v?tšina d?ní na desce, kterého popravd? není mnoho, se odehrává v tichých basových rovinách atakujících limity lidského ucha i b?žných reproduktorových sestav, p?i?emž za?átek a konec alba pat?í pro Biosphere typi?t?jším kus?m s výrazn?jšími zasmy?kovanými motivy. Jedná se o opravdu temnou ambientní procházku neznámem a podv?domý/pov?domý pocit neklidu, nervozity a strachu se dostavuje spolehliv?. Jenssen zde p?edstavuje svou nejexperimentáln?jší a prozatím nejmén? p?ístupnou tvá?, hladina p?esv?d?ivosti a smysluplnosti však místy kolísá. [Hynek Dedecius]
nth position (UK):
Venice, Text of Light & Grapes from the Estate
How many different kinds of different are there? Well, judging by this bunch, when it comes to guitar music, an awful lot. All these CDs are based around the use of electric guitars in innovative ways, with enormously different end results. Christian Fennesz has a clearly identifiable sound that changes relatively little from disc to disc, but he manages to do a surprising amount with it. Essentially, Fennesz makes plush, beautifully-produced, multi-layered, slow-moving melodic and elegiac music, with very little else - bar the treated guitar - being significantly in evidence; but having said that, he is excellent at producing evocative variations on this theme. His last album, Endless Summer, harked back to peak-period Brian Wilson Beach Boys and conjured up a sun-kissed Californian idyll out of a relatively minimal fabric.
You cannot get much further from Californian beaches than the quintessentially European decadence of Venice, with its shadows, ennui and sense of mournful loss, self-indulgence and history; yet with pretty much the same sonic palette, Fennesz manages to capture it with equal ease. The album sprawls languidly in a thoroughly Venetian way, and you can almost feel the dark passages, limpid canals and sun-baked, cat-haunted, piazzas. The flow is slightly disrupted by the appearance of David Sylvain on 'Transit', where he produces a more Scott Walker-than-Scott Walker meditation on European decay in a way that only he can; the album never quite recovers momentum. It's not that the remaining tracks are any poorer, but that 'Transit' feels like an album-closer, so the subsequent tracks can't help but appear as afterthoughts. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful and alluring album and a delight to the ear, one for the iPod next time you are on the Bridge of Sighs.
Text of Light take an equally off-beat approach to guitar. A quintessentially New York post-rock supergroup, they were formed to perform improvised soundtracks to the experimental hand-painted films of Stan Brakhage. These are neither soundtracks to the film or musical accompaniments, but are seen by the band as an additional component to a total audio-visual experience. Fronted by the twin guitars of NY stalwarts Lee Ranaldo, from Sonic Youth and Alan Licht. They also incorporate turntablists DJ Olive and Christian Marclay and a jazz rhythm section of William Hooker and Ulrich Kreiger, in various combinations. This is a formidable ensemble and does not disappoint. The music is dense, restless and fascinating, even when presented here without the films that they work with. The three live improvisations presented here stand up extraordinarily well on their own and make for absorbing and rewarding listening, showcasing a collection of musicians completely on top of their craft.
Almost as far as one can get from the roaring feedback-tinged improv of Texts of Light and the high-density sound of Fennesz is Oren Ambarchi's take on the guitar. His sound is ultra-minimal, concentrating on the tonal qualities of single notes, drawn out to lengthy drones and given subtle, carefully-managed decays. The whole album is an exercise in exquisite restraint, with every tone savoured and treated with respect, culminating on the final track 'Stars Aligned, Webs Spun', with its balanced consideration of sonorous, bell-like tones that hang in the air and built to a deep pastoral beauty that sings out the virtues of doing as little as possible, but doing it perfectly. [Ian Simmons]
Entre ce disque et le premier sorti sous son nom par l'Australien Oren Ambarchi après qu'il ait arrêté le groupe Phlegm, les points communs sont difficiles à trouver. En duo avec son compatriote Rob Avenaim, il inventait des fulgurances bruitistes sur le séminal The Alter Rebbe's Nigun qui témoignait de son séjour new-yorkais et de son intérêt pour sa scène downtown. Ce n'est qu'après son retour à Sydney, où il construit son studio et collabore avec Pimmon, Fennesz et Keith Rowe, qu'il trouve sa voie que le label Touch relaye dès les précédents et excellents Insulation et Suspension. Entre ces deux moments clés de sa carrière, son univers a considérablement evolué, comme son approche de la guitare, de plus en plus minimale, même couplée à des effets électroniques, ou, comme c'est le cas ici, complétée par une multitude d'autres instruments (piano, orgue, batterie, etc.) dont il joue également. Désormais, les contours d'une rare pureté et l'abstraction sensuelle et apaisante de ce qu'il crée le positionnent aux antipodes de la violence sonore dont il fut l'un des passionnants propagateurs. Sur Grapes From The Estate, quatre longues plages aériennes évoquent des paysages organiques assez proches de l'ambient d'un Brian Eno ou, mieux et plus près de nous, d'un Steve Roden ou d'un Dean Roberts. Quant à son sens inné des boucles et du séquençage, il est pour beaucoup dans l'aspect entêtant d'ambiances dont on peine à se défaire. [Philippe Robert]
Le guitariste australien Oren Ambarachi aime les terres désertiques où la musique circule en spirales, lentement, très lentement. Où chaque note vient prendre l’empreinte de toutes les aspérités de la roche auditive.
Le minimalisme qui en ressort n’est pas froid, bien au contraire c’est une douce chaleur, comme celle d’un rayon de soleil qui vient vous caresser le visage, passant à travers les branches d’un arbre, d’une forêt rougit dans les mains de l’automne. On perçoit ici et là d’autres instruments, tout aussi dénudés. Un orgue Hammond, un piano, des cloches qui se laissent pourtant vêtir d’un léger voile d’électronique à peine perceptible.
Sur "Grapes from the Estate", album qui sort bien évidemment chez Touch, Oren Ambarchi recherche la pureté. Une quête d’une musique originelle, aérienne et entêtante, dont l’esthétisme passe par le dépouillement. Et il y réussit fort bien.
Das NetzMagazin (Switzerland):
Töne wie Trauben
Durch die Musik des Australischen Gitarristen und Perkussionisten Oren Ambarchi wird man zum Zen-Buddhisten. Leben und Hören im fliessenden Jetzt, während die minimalen Melodien in Zeitlupe von Moment zu Moment perlen. Auf "Grapes From The Estate" sind die Töne Trauben, die man sich Stück für Stück zum Munde führt. Langweilig wird's dem hellhörigen Traubenpflücker nicht, obwohl die Instrumentierung nur in zwei der vier Songs des Albums über die - oftmals unkenntliche - Gitarre hinausgeht. Viel mehr als punktuell eingesetztes Klavier, scheue Geigen und zarte Perkussion gibt's aber auch dort nicht zu hören. Das ist auch nicht weiter schlimm, denn weniger war selten mehr als in dieser schleichenden Ambient-Metamorphose. Ein bescheidener Geniestreich. [Ralph Hopfbauer]
Cyclic Defrost (USA):
The brunt of Ambarchi’s work consists of gracefully looped guitar tones that, although often heavily processed so as to render their origins unrecognizable, are touchingly direct in their subtle shifts and warm, soft aura. This reissue of Suspension, then, serves to reassert Ambarchi’s ability to work with a darker, more sonorous palette. As with his more recent works (such as Grapes From The Estate), tracks still brim with energy, but here it is channelled in a more singular fashion; into more pensive - though also pretty - moods that are then captured from numerous angles.
Compositions hinge upon a simple superimposition of textures – a process which allows Ambarchi to shed a reliance upon complex and often distracting processing techniques and, in a rather precise manner, sharpen the angles and edges of these tones into dense, radiant drones that challenge as much as they engage.
In the early works, one often finds minor sixth drones accompanied by delicate metallic ricochets and other faint flurries of percussion that are hypnotic and even seductive in their elusiveness. Later, however, the lengthy stretches of prowling bell-like tones and the distant sputter of amplifier buzz seem no longer subject to gravity and linger in an orbital realm where notes hang, dissolve and reform in a variety of permutations. With “This Evening So Soon”, for instance, the miasma of shifting guitar drones float freely in a sensuous austerity, where each subtle alteration in timbre or momentum works to heighten the suspense laced in between the threads of these finely woven tapestries. [Max Schaefer]
This reissue displays Ambarchi at his moodiest. Long known as a master guitar player equally at home with noisy improvs and Bailey-esque minimalism, here he builds tense sound fields, then lets them fall apart, only to reassemble into something deeper and new. The five songs here embrace noise and silence, warmly greeting both at the moments in which they choose to disappear.
Repetition serves tracks like “Volger” and “This Evening So Soon” well, quite tonal repeats inching forward to bursts of monolithic sound. Likewise, “Wednesday”, the opener, leads the listener into a tunnel of single sounds, which layer over one another until the whole beast is visible. And the beast is heavy and holy.
The title track is the closer, and it takes us out of the tunnel and into bright light, its exploration of noise and silence suggesting a positive, almost humble resolution.
Yeah, there really is no way to write about Ambarchi’s music or what he has meant to the guitar without seeing his work as spiritual. Some of his music has been overtly so, as in his work for John Zorn’s Tzadik label, and less so, as in his collaborations with SunnO)). But the aim is explicit throughout his body of work, and “Suspension” is a good reminder of the depths of his intentions. [Mike Wood]
Signal to Noise (USA):
The Oren Ambarchi express has been chugging along for a few years, but I just got on board. His CV mentions stints with noise-mongerers Phlegm (as a drummer), a Zorn-sponsored duo with Robbie Avenaim (although he was raised in Sydney, Australia, ethnically he's a Sephardic Jew), and brief encounters with luminaries including Phill Niblock, Keith Rowe, Pita and Fennesz. The two records under discussion here document his solo guitar work, which sounds pretty unguitar-like. That fact by itself is hardly remarkable these days, but the direction Ambarchi takes is. He eschews jagged edges, harsh sounds, or speedy articulation in favor of a squeezable, elastic tone that's midway between the "Forbidden Planet" soundtrack's whoosh and wobble and the Mego crew's glitchcraft. And he does it mostly live and completely without computer assistance. That's computer-free, but hardly non-digital -- it sounds like Ambarchi relies on his delay units as much as his strings. "Stacte.3" is the earlier of the two releases and the third in a series of vinyl-only solo guitar records, but the only one you're likely to find (the first two were pressed in lots of 150). The LPs have been progress reports of Ambarchi's investigation of the instrument; the ranks of cloned frowning clowns screened on the cover make it look pretty informal, but the LP is actually the more immediate of these two records; it has an appealing air of discovery about it, as though Ambarchi was saying to himself "Hey, just lookit what I'm doing" when he made it. One piece takes up each side, but they're both composed of sequences of dissimilar sections in a way that reminds me of Polwechsel's recent work. Side B is the only piece to feature overdubbing; it opens with a low, gut-knotting drone made of commingled guitar feedback, bowed acoustic bass, and cymbals that might have made a convincing case for Ambarchi to get that Niblock gig. But then it shifts abruptly to a quick patter of blips, and shifts again to a lower tolling blip that's wreathed in quiet crackles and hovering flying saucer sounds. Side A is for solo guitar recorded to 4-track cassette. Hard drive? He don't need no steenking hard drive. It kicks off with a layering of manic loops pitched in the music-box range, then cuts to a stretched ribbon of braided hums. "Stacte.3A" points the way to "Suspension," a higher-profile CD released by Touch. Ambarchi's in good company there; the English label has put out records by Fennesz and Rafael Toral, other artists who sometimes use guitars in very unguitarlike ways. Both the sonic consistency of the record and the typically beautiful, naturalistic art work by label boss Jon Wozencroft present this record as a statement -- this is what Ambarchi has to say with the guitar. And what is that? That the instrument's potential to generate new sounds has not been exhausted, and that stillness is a virtue. "Suspension" is aptly named; Ambarchi's ribbons of static and hum, his tones that resemble tolling bell and electric pianos, and his distant crackles and clicks all sound as though they are positioned in a three-dimensional space that imposes its own transformations on the sound waves that emanate from each piece. If you're up for a little tone floating, "Suspension" will do you good. [Bill Meyer]
Process, or where one's process begins, can be a powerful statement in electronic music making. From Markus Popp's painting on the surfaces of CDs to discover a world defined by glitches and errors, to Pan Sonic's homemade synthesizers that reek havoc on eardrums everywhere, the validity of the music can at times be held up by the process that defines it. It's easy to whole-heartedly disregard music the sole origin of which is the computer and the hand behind it. Action, or played instruments, carry with them a sense of personality, and more importantly, a sense of will. It's not surprising that a good number of electronic musicians have of late began to reinvestigate the instruments they may have previously set aside for the computer, finding a powerful relationship with the instrument they play and the software that redefines it. Oren Ambarchi is such a musician. He's been involved with the Sydney music scene since the early 90s when his output was focused on drumming in Noise/Punk bands, a far cry from his recent work on Touch,'Suspension', an LP whose title really does say it all. Composed entirely of guitar improvisations, Suspension shows Ambarchi honing in on the warmer elements of the instrument. His treatment of the guitar sounds not unlike a Fender Rhodes at times, creating melodies that seem to hover in space. The majority of the pieces are slowly turning narratives, repeating patterns that resemble lock-grooves at times, but lacking any type of constrained structure, allowing for abstract patterns to slowly form and fall away. Ambarchi has successful tapped in to the sprit of the late period work of Morton Feldman, as well as La Monte Young, creating a record that sounds simultaneously familiar and like nothing you have heard before. 11/12 [Jefre Cantu-Ledesma]
Oren Ambarchi can claim a very special place in Australian music history. An improviser, experimental musician, composer and organizer of the What Is Music? Festival, Ambarchi's catalogue of releases is as diverse as they come. On Suspension, Ambarchi creates a series of gorgeous solo guitar works that show there's still plenty of room for a generation of new sounds from the guitar. Soft, yet sometimes piercing (as the droning bliss of ÔGene' demonstrates), Suspension is generally a soothing listen that's both light and dark all at once. It's the kind of music you'd expect to hear accompanying a film. The openness of the sound and playing on this recording really means these pieces could fit practically any narrative. Ambarchi's ability to create music that evokes a very strong visual image is well beyond that of many other artists of his type. Easily one of the most original-sounding guitar records in a very long time. 4/5 [Lawrence English]
Rolling Stone (Australia):
An Australian take on the still sound of ambient guitar.
Continuing on from his excellent 1999 debut album Insulation, Oren Ambarchi's latest work is spacey and minimal. Clearly influenced by his past experiences working with John Zorn, Ambarchi explores ideas or "events" by putting his six-string guitar through various effects. Predominantly improvised, Suspension's six tracks come over more like meditations, as the shimmering tones, blurry loops, and celestial drones forge a real sense of stillness. "Wednesday" echoes the shadowy melancholy of Radiohead's Amnesiac, while "Vogler" sees notes dissolve within soft reverberations. Suspension is a sensational ambient guitar record. 4/5 stars [David Olivetti]
Despite the oxymoronic thinking of such, very few would associate electronic music as coming from anything as rock 'n' roll as an electric guitar. But Sydney sound-art scenester Oren Ambarchi - in a manner similar to Dean Roberts - wrings six strings and a slew of effects-units out into precise, rhythmic beds of fluorescent hum and buzz that easily assimilate with the sounds of the electro-boffins housed by labels like 12k and Mille Plateaux. Suspension, the follow up to 1999's Insulation, concerns itself solely with the sonorous tones of its restless ambient pieces, rather than the latest gear-working gimmicks in DSP-jacking or software-cracking. Ambarchi's apparently 'restrictive' source sound proves no restriction; instead, its framework merely streamlining the artist's ability to render a mood, or to paint a whole. The intent, precision, and audible physical shifts of Ambarchi's tunes are often reminiscent of Ryoji Ikeda'a audio-research-posing-as-records, with immense care taken in sculpting songs from basic tonalities. But even in its most minimal moments (in this case, the set's title track), Ambarchi, as guitarist, isn't concerned with reducing his music to the thinnest signals. Coming from a musical realm that has given the world Miki Yui and Toshimaru Nakamura, he's hardly going to be mistaken for an arch minimalist, so it's no surprise that Ambarchi favors construction over deconstruction; even if what he does with a guitar is a most astonishing act of abstraction. [Anthony Carew]
Touch seems to be seeking out guitarists who manage to make the guitar sound like it hasn't sounded before. It seems odd that the red appled 'Suspension' digipack cover wasn't one of large Mego style large card envelopes, like the recent Touch releases from Fennesz and Rafael Toral, because Oren Ambarchi approaches the guitar with as unique an ear as either of them. Like Toral and Fennesz, there is almost always an underlying melodic base to what at first appears abstract, although Ambarchi's music probably requires more attentive listening to discern this. About halfway through the intermittent speaker shaking drones and pulses of the title track, it sounds like his guitar morphs into an underwater merry go round music box before it fades out in a shimmering glow of glitch-like sparkles. A former drummer who switched to guitar because no one else in Sydney, Australia was willing to make music with the kind of experimental edge he sought, Oren Ambarchi has made a beautiful record that moves onwards and upwards from his previous Touch release 'Insulation'. The odd thing about 'Insulation' was that although it was an improvised work, it reminded me of Karlheinz Stockhausen's meticulously composed 'Kontakte' more than any of the numerous comparisons that have been chucked Ambarchi's way. These include Keith Rowe, Tod Dokstader, Main, Dean Roberts, James Plotkin, Pimmon, Pan Sonic, Kevin Drumm, Jim O'Rourke, Pierre Schaefer and even Brian Eno. That's not to say that these comparisons are unwarranted, as if you like many of the artists in that list, you may well also like Ambarchi's deeply submerged six string soundscapes. He's moved on from 'Insulation' in that he allows a little more repetition into the picture, and this and the ultra low bass tones he coaxes from his guitar give a warm glow to his spacious improvised pulses and rhythms. I'm not quite as amazed as many reviewers that Ambarchi creates such unusual thrumming textures from just one little old guitar with no laptop processing or other such trickery, as I've seen just what Keith Rowe can do with an untuned guitar lying flat in a sea of springs and scrap. However that does nothing to detract from the fact that Ambarchi has made astonishing progress in relatively short time. From the wide sonic range of feedback tones on 'This Evening So Soon' to the distant memory loop simulations that open 'Wednesday' to the electron magnified deep bass textures and pulses of 'Gene', 'Suspension' is yet more proof that Touch is putting out some of the best recordings around these days. [Graeme Rowland]
VITAL (The Netherlands):
Recently Oren Ambarchi was on a world tour, so you may even have seen him play. I was lucky to catch him playing live in a small club with a good sound, and was delighted by his music. Oren plays guitar. Period. The fact that he adds a little bit of guitar effects is nice to know, but not essential. Oren plays careful tones on the guitar which are sometimes stretched out into a sort of sine waves. 'Suspension' is his second CD for Touch, after 'Insulation' which set him on the map (and now I'm thinking of it, Touch becomes more and more a label where guitarists play an important role). When I heard Insulation, I thought he was using samplers, laptop and other what have you got, to transform his guitar sound. After seeing him doing this thing live, I know it's just a man with a guitar. Oren's music is very poetic, very silent and full of suspense. A simple strumm on the guitar slowly evolves into an Alvin Lucier like drone. Never offensive, never harsh, always delicate. This music is both far away and nearby at the same time. Remote for it's randomness but nearby for its intimacy. If you never heard Oren's music, then this CD is the best place to start. It showcases everything he stands for. Great stuff. [Frans de Waard]
Other Music (USA):
Oren Ambarchi has worked with Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, and Phill Niblock to name a few. I find this, his newest album, fits somewhere between the work of those three, with a similarity to fellow Touch recording artist Hazard (B.J. Nilsen), as well as the solo work of a longtime favorite of mine, Thomas Koner. "Suspension" is a unique experience where as a listener you are carefully suspended inside surging waves of tonality, drifting somewhere beneath the surface and above whatever lies below-- unaware of either. The sounds come together and pull apart with an irregularity that allows you to travel repeatedly without a preconceived destination and each listening has proven to me to be just as intense. All sounds are generated by guitar, processed and recorded live without the use of a computer. No post-production, no editing or re-editing, no recontextualizing--this is pure improvisation live-to-tape. As a fellow guitarist, I have nothing but high praise for this beautifully realized and executed document of unconventional guitarwork. I look forward to whatever Oren should offer next. [AG]
Di Oren Ambarchi avevamo giˆ avuto segnali positivi con diverse uscite sia soliste che con svariati gruppi (Menstruation Sisters, Phlegm) ed improvvisatori radicali (Robbie Avenaim), tutte incise su etichette Jerker, Touch, Tzadik, Plate Lunch e RRR. Si statta in sostanza di lavori che mettono in luce i diversi aspetti musicali di questo originale chitarrista di Sydney, che possono spaziare dal noise oltranzista all'ambientale puro e al minimalismo classico. "Suspension" perfeziona il discorso giˆ affrontato nel precedente "Insulation" (Touch 2000). I suoni della chitarra vengono manipolati ed addirittura 'piallati' a tal punto da divenire pura pasta ambientale, raggiungendo livelli spasmodici d'angoscia in "This Evening So Soon" e "As Far As The Eye Can See", vette aeree ed impalpabili in "Gene" e "Suspension" (a due passi dalla new-age creativa o dal Rafael Toral di "Aeriola Frequency") e un minimalismo alla Oval (quelli di "Systemisch", un disco che chiaramente deve aver fatto scuola) nelle eteree "Wednesday" e "Vogler". Splendido l'artwork del digipak a cura di Jon Wozencroft. Tra tutti i 'nuovi' sperimentatori, Ambarchi ? tra i pi? credibili, insieme (a costo di ripetermi) a Fennesz, O'Rourke e Janek Schaefer.
The Wire [UK]:
The appropriately titled Suspension fixes Australia based guitarist oren Ambarchi even deeper inside the twilight world of hesitation and halting motion that he opened up on last year's Insulation. This is a more fully realised work than that strong disc - a definite step forwards. Or sideways. Ambarchi has developed a highly original guitar technique which preserves the instrument's six string warmth even as it owes much to contemporary electronica. Indeed, his music has several affiliations with both post-Techno programming and post-Noise Improv. He might use loops, but his way of refusing to let them form straightforwardly repetitive swatches underscores his evident lack of interest in strongly marked rhythms. The compositions move along in a fog of understatement, neither settling into drones nor resolving into a barrage of noise. And for all his raucous avant punk roots, his playing has become positively approachable - the title track trails ribbons of sound that are positively pretty. Further, he takes feedback overtones from more aggressive settings and re-presents them simply as sound. Exploring feelings of incompleteness, his new pieces formulate sequences of notes that seem to require resolution, not only for the composer to withhold it. Notes hang in the air, while angular phrases are eccentrically looped. The softened attack of his notes makes for a mysterious, velvet-textured environment, in which the scnes he conjures up continually dissolve and re-form. This is intelligent, thoughtful, proactive ambience. [Will Montgomery]
Side Line [Belgium]:
The Australian O. Ambarchi may remind of others of his compatriots dealing with extreme experimental compositions like Alan lamb or Shinjuku Thief. His 2nd album on Touch can be seen as ambient and that's probably a right qualification, but the way he realized it, is totally amazing. I'd to read the info sheet to discover that he composed his "Suspension" with guitar sounds. He recorded and deconstructed these sounds to transpose them into humming tones. It feels like entering an endless sound field of an imaginary documentary. This is extremely ambient stuff that will please to the lovers of other Australian releases on Dorobo.
While Christian Fennesz has been very active in working with a diverse group of musicians, few of his collaborators have exhibited the likemindedness found in Sydney's tinkering guitarist Oren Ambarchi. For both Ambarchi and Fennesz, the guitar is the jumping-off point for making ultimately electronic music. Within the oblique electric shards of Fennesz' "Endless Summer," the jangling strum of his guitar is certainly heard; likewise, a gentle plucking from Ambarchi's guitar still resonates through his work, despite all of the processing. "Suspension" is Ambarchi's second recording for Touch, and stands miles above the his previous album "Insulation." Citing Lucier as an influence (though much more in terms of tonality than methodolgy, as Lucier is far more interested in the execution of a system than Ambarchi), he has transformed the guitar into a strangely archaic tone generator that chimes with the color of a well weathered bell. A beautiful record in keeping with Touch's recent albums from Hazard and Rafael Toral.
dis 'n' dat [net]:
Oren Ambarchi - Suspension / Rafael Toral - Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance - Two albums, both from Touch, the excellent UK label, both entirely comprised of treated guitar. Australia's Oren Ambarchi has chosen his title wisely - the sounds he elicits are indeed suspensions. The emphasised harmonics hand in the air, and as you listen you hang with them, waiting for the slight changes to startle you our of your state of hipnosis. Suddenly a twist in the sound glistens around your head. On some tracks the interruptions are more vivid, but Ambarchi conjours up an atmosphere of beauty and tension. Similarly tense is Rafael Toral's 'Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance'. Imagine being told a horrible but unavoidable truth, one which you have no chioce but to accept and come to terms with. A terrible beauty pervades Toral's music. It is a music with which you can wait for something inevitable. Perfect for these times of anticipation, as we wait for the bombs to fall once again...[MARK_R]
Gr v ty G rl [net]:
Despite the oxymoronic thinking of such; very few would associate electronic music as coming from anything as archaic and rockist as an electric guitar. Sydney sound-art scenester and reported Radical Jew Oren Ambarchi --one of the gents behind the annual What Is Music? festivities-- makes gorgeous, crystalline, experimental audio from not-the-usual electronic instruments. There's not a 606 or powerbook in sight, as Ambarchi --in a manner similar to Kiwi Dean Roberts (White Winged Moth, Thela, etc)-- wrings six strings and a slew of effects-units out into precise, rhythmic beds of fluorescent hum-and-buzz that easily assimilate with the sounds of the new-electro-boffins housed by labels like 12K and Mille Plateaux. His instrumental approach gives rise to an artistic approach, with Suspension --the Touch follow-up to 1999's Insulation-- concerning itself solely with the sonorous tones of its restless ambient pieces, rather than the latest gear-working gimmicks in dsp-jacking or software-cracking. Ambarchi's apparently 'restrictive' source sound --an electric guitar with no digital edits or effects-- proves no restriction, instead, its framework merely streamlining the artist's ability to render a mood, or to paint a whole. The intent, precision, and audible physical shifts of Ambarchi's tunes are often reminiscent of Ryoji Ikeda's audio-research-posing-as-records, with immense care taken in sculpting songs from basic tonalities. But, even in its most minimal moments (in this case, the set's title-track), Ambarchi, as guitarist, isn't concerned with reducing his music to the most thin signals. Coming from a musical realm that has given the world Miki Yui and Toshimaru Nakamura, he's hardly going to be mistaken for an arch minimalist, anyhow, so it's no surprise that Ambarchi favours construction over deconstruction; even if what he does with a guitar is, to that instrument's aesthetic, a most astonishing act of abstraction.
Suspension is the latest release for the Sydney-based guitarist and percussionist Oren Ambarchi. The fact that Ambarchi is a guitarist, that the music on this record is made solely by a man and his electric guitar (along with some live effects, surely), is certainly something to marvel at. Suspension is also his second CD for Touch, having released Insulation last year. Here we have six tracks of uncanny beauty and purity; this music occupies an impressive space and drifts effortlessly into the listener's consciousness. Rich tones course their way throughout these pieces. The sounds will often shift suddenly, or they will be continuously interrupted and succeeded by another sound of a different timbre, and yet never do these changes knock you out of your comfort zone as a listener. The sounds are deep, quiet and nearly concrete, and as such they are a perfect fit for one's ears. It's a pure enjoyment to listen to this beautiful music, which makes Suspension one of the more bewitching projects I've heard in some time.[Richard di Santo
All Music [net]:
Once more Oren Ambarchi managed to record a striking album of lowercase electronics. Less stripped-down than his collaboration with Martin Ng (Reconnaissance, on Staubgold), Suspension still belongs to the field of minimal(ist) music. Using guitar and electronics (and the line between one and the other is very thin), the composer has created slow, delicate pieces. The title describes the music appropriately: everything seems to float in mid-air, including the listener. This position is not necessarily all that comfortable, but then again Suspension is not an album for Zen meditation or exercises in Tibetan spirituality. It exists for ears to explore, providing an artistic experience in the most profound sense of the word. Turn up the volume in order to be moved by the occasional sub-bass tones, direct all of your attention to the music and let yourself be hypnotized. 'Wednesday' and 'Vogler' are made of half-remembered melodies dissected and reassembled in a way similar to Fennesz' CD Endless Summer (minus the glitches and crackles). These are the busiest pieces. 'Suspension' features the sound of a Wurlitzer electric piano with digital treatments. Its fragments of melodies bring to mind some of Andrew Poppy's works. The last piece, 'As Far As the Eye Can See', evacuates any allusion to music as we usually conceive it to concentrate on a slow-evolving drone. Suspension confirms Ambarchi's talent and the strength of his musical vision. This music has personality and heart. It moves and stirs. Recommended. [Francois Couture]
Luna Kafe [Australia]:
How do you talk about a sensation that slithers up close to your heart, in a treacle down from the pendant ears, dropping between the teats and nipple hairs, like a snake of sweat, sliding and collapsing off the branches, these two movements so cautious yet frighteningly drastic at the same moment? With such a shock, you realize that the eyes and arms, the guts too, have been clenched for over long, from fear, from caffeine, that obscure object of anger, the entire body is in damned trapped in an imagined grip. And there ain't nothing in those fists! You are actually drifting, have been, lifted up on the waters, a mere drop merrily scurrying down the river. There are howls and barbs out here, but they are far-flung and distant. When it comes to Mister Ambarchi here, he definitely has a way about him that helps with such corporeal journeys. Maybe it was culled in the Australian Outback, when he was abandoned to the rowdies, dingoes, and dusty aborigines, or maybe from the time he was left abandoned in the middle of a game of Zorn's Cobra in the early nineties downtown scene. Regardless, he has sailed through such a past and into some very aware and present waters, keeping close to his true powers, which is the perspicacious ability to tether these drifts to a lone guitar. From such a base, you are free to fall into the darkness venturing, into a dreamland as yet unheard, spreading out violet ripples over the unstrung voids, the energy nets popping and fizzling every once in awhile from such moments, as the tensions slowly work themselves loose, these subtle actions loosing little pearls of lightning, all percolative, with lilting glitches and slow, bellowing breaths. Gently in and out it goes, as you sink deeper into the disc. Throughout the hour plus of music, there is a delicious disorientation, between luxurious extremes of dissonance and distilled tones. Eternally between bites of a sweet, dripping Gala apple, its golden and rouge skin dissolves at your lips, the jaws arise and collapse; its delectable juices spread. Or the exhilaration of trampoline jumps off the bed, hanging from taffy curtains, a close rustle as they stir and tear, mid-air, mere inches from the hardwood floors, above the drifts of dust bunnies, away from the windows, the wind like freight cars, roaring far outside, yet under you too. Perhaps even outside of the bedroom, when you let go on the subway, just to wobble with the rails, or in Einstein's elevator, with the flashlight bowed like a singing saw, where it's all just a slow suspension of falling. A warm decay inside such dizziness. Look back at the cover, realizing that even with all the stacks of apples, it is not repetitious, there is little repeating, it is not the same thing over and over and over, but each time through is a rewriting, a self-righting and adjusting of the sounds. It is wormed deep down into the permutations and sliding distortions on the whole apple/orange spectrum, to where there are no longer any mistakes! Sometimes a leaf on the stem, sometimes a mealy core or brown bruise, maybe two stickers at $1.29 on 'em, one apple a candy luminance, refracting the store-light, the other a little more dull on the skin, but its meat ever-sweet, glistening anew at first bite. It always feels like the first time too. All these apples, all exactly arranged in the, ahem, universal bodega's wiggly dance, all slowly dying. For you to bite in...
remote induction [net]:
Suspension is the second album by the Australian based Oren Ambarchi to be released on Tocuh. Following Insulation, the artist continues to explore guitar and its potential to go beyond the conventional use, putting him in the same ballpark with fellow Touch artists like Phil Niblock and Christian Fennesz, who he has worked with among others. Deep notes play with a vibrant bass chiming in Wednesday, a clear melodic pattern. Slight sweeps add to this consistent pattern, a light abrasion to the gentle hums. Light plinks chime as the piece starts to fade, backed by mild flickers and sensed elements. Hums play and echo in Vogler, repeating like strokes with a mild whir also heard. To go with this a repeating pulse plays, a light note lower in the mix. Vogler works as a slow hypnotism, a seductive call to sleep in the washes of the layers. Intensifying into a low swirl, teasing as it swallows the listener's perception. Clearing as an oscillation, pits and patters adding stray details. Strums play lightly, slight blips within as hesitant signal. Increasingly the pops and crackles are a more prominent part of the whole, with an additional sigh and purr to the drone. Sounds strip to a purr pulse, brushed minimal clicks This Evening So Soon strikes bass chords, sustained for a moment, wavering with an effect that is felt as increasing drone in its wake. Expectant humming atmosphere is created, higher tone mixing through established core. Slight pulses work with an edge mild details to the overall smooth flow. A note plays, hesitant, then silent, then Gene attempts the same again. Try a notch deeper, striking a deeper touch and a little breath pitters out. The player attempts to step out a bass melody, each note seemingly separated by eternity, linked by a slow fizz of aftermath. As those eternities pass the times become shorter, form more emergent in the vibrant tonal demarcations. Sustained note wavers while a bass buzz contrasts that smoothness, intensifying gradually. the fifth piece is the title track Suspension, announced by playing bass notes. Sequence repeated - plunge and sustain. Then there is a silence which allows the piece to adopt a variation on resumption. A pattern that continues - sequence, pause, new variation, pause, another variation. Stepping through tonal shifts of those notes - more bass, piercing, extra vibration. Slowly cohering to by pass the pause and working through the shifts, which displays a certain awkwardness to the form. Getting a feel for where it is going Suspension smoothes, a hint of lushness within the flow and flex of tones. Bass rises, opening as an expansion of As Far As The Eye Can See. Slowly hazing and sustaining as a hum, set up as a slow, drawn out drift. This piece sustains this form with a persistence, though other elements are flirted with, till gradually there are hints of chimes low in the mix and a shift in the emphasis of the drone. [PTR]
Real Time Magazine (Australia):
...a music of gentle sonambulance - slowly overlapping loops of guitar noise, volume swells and gently undulating feedback. This is leavened with slowly wafting melodic note clusters of recognisable 'guitar' and some deep submariner bass... There's much detail here in the variety of textures, sound placement and juxtaposition that will reward repeated listening. [Tim Catlin]
The Education Digest (USA):
The music in Suspension plays on both senses of the word: as conveying a sense of effortless floating in mid-air, and as the anxious quality of awaiting some result or end. Played on a guitar connected to pedals and delays, the Australian Oren Ambarchi reaches for subtle effects throughout the six pieces on this album, none of which sound like a guitar playing. Slow-moving, layered, and textured songs, they focus on creating, sustaining, and investigating particular moods. With minimal or no discernible melodies and no overt structure, they nonetheless feel free of discordant atonality and aimlessness. Begun as improvisations, Ambarchi shapes each piece with overdubs and edits, which allow ideas to emerge, be molded, developed, and highlighted. As a result, the final form one senses of each piece is a by-product of the meeting of impulse and considered actions. Influenced by such composers as Alvin Lucier and Morton Feldman, one hears in Suspension a similar interest in control and exploration of timbral effects in songs whose tones merge and dissipate like cloud shapes, although in much shorter time frames. Recommended music for listeners interested in electronic sounds, avant-garde art music, exploring and stretching the limits of particular interests, and/or (at the very least) ambient music.
Oren Ambarchi est un compositeur d’origine juive sépharade, né en 1969, vivant à Sidney, en Australie et actif depuis 1986 sur la scène musicale expérimentale d’avant-garde. Il est associé à la génération des Rafael Toral, Main, Dean Roberts, James Plotkin, Fennesz ou Pimmon et privilégie la guitare comme instrument de base. Il a commencé sa carrière musicale en étant batteur de groupes post-punk d’influence noise japonaise (Phlegm ou The Sisters of Menstruation) pour peu à peu évoluer au fil de rencontres et de collaborations vers une musique plus minimaliste, personnelle et recherchée. On lui reconnaît comme influences, Alvin Lucier, LaMonte Young ou Phil Niblock.
‘Suspension’ est son second album pour le label anglais Touch (Rafael Toral, et correspond bien à l’idée sonore que l’on peut se faire du label. Une esthétique et une musique dépouillée, réduite à l’essentiel, reposante et très précise, pas forcément facile d’accès au premier abord mais dont l’audition attentive se retrouve généralement vite récompensée.
Ce qu’il y a de reposant chez Oren Ambarchi et ce qui en fait le plus grand intérêt est qu’il produit une musique planante qui ne sombre jamais devant les exigences de dénivelés épiques. La packaging à ce titre illustre bien le son. Quatre clichés photographiques répondant chaque fois à une couleur dominante : rouge, jaune, bleu et vert et dessinant des espaces où se croisent le vide et le plein, une mélange de flux et de masses statiques, une certaine vision du monde en sorte.
‘Suspension’ n’a rien d’une expériences émotionnelle et encore moins new age. Oren Ambarchi déclarait dans une interview avoir voulu au départ créer une musique pure, froide et sans émotions. Il constata par la suite qu’au contraire, ses productions avaient pris naturellement un tournant chaleureux, loin d’être dépourvues d’une trame émotionnelle.
Oren Ambarchi utilise comme élément de départ une guitare et ne passe pas par l’intermédiaire électronique et digital d’un ordinateur. Il s’en tire par l’intermédiaire d’effets de paysages et de drones, une épaisseur calme, une toile de fils tendus sur laquelle flottent quelques ondes et aspérités occasionnelles.
On ne peut pas parler de minimalisme pur car il y a peu de répétitions et peu d’effets de silence, tout se joue autre part, par bourdonnements distincts, parfois conversant entre eux, qui nous transportent de bout en bout sans effets de piège.
On peut penser à une sorte d’iceberg gigantesque détaché la banquise et qui navigue doucement ver le sud en flottant lentement. Quelques sons en coups de boutoir traversent la glace lorsque des parties s’en détachent ou tout simplement fondent, une masse énorme en mouvement qui se laisse dévier et entraîner au gré des courants tout en s’amenuisant. Il y a la lumière aussi qui pénètre la glace et s’éteint peu à peu après une certaine profondeur et fait ruisseler l’ensemble.
La musique d’Oren Ambarchi n’est pas très écrite, pas très structurée, plutôt en couches, contemplations et en ambiances dérivantes mais c’est plutôt rafraîchissant car on échappe aux archétypes traditionnels et c’est largement compensé par une profondeur envoûtante.
‘Suspension’ n’est pas facile d’accès, il y a une serrure dont il faut retrouver la combinaison pour ensuite s’y faufiler, se glisser au travers pour trouver alors enfin l’apesanteur et un état d’immersion légèrement euphorisant, se nourrir des lueurs gracieuses émises. Un disque à écouter au calme chez soi, au casque ou à volume suffisamment élevé pour saisir pleinement l’environnement des basses.
‘Wednesday’ semble inquiétant de prime abord, comme un nuage de brouillard, une vapeur constituée de fines gouttelettes en suspension, mais une sorte de brume chaude comme un nuage de sable peut-être. Quelque chose comme la vapeur surnageante qui subsiste après qu’un orage a éclaté lors d’une journée de canicule. Le ciel est d’une drôle de couleur, la lumière semble rouge orange, ce qui renforce les couleurs de la végétation, rend les verts un peu plus foncés.
‘Vogler’ c’est comme passer une après-midi pluvieuse à lire au chaud dans une véranda. Pas ce genre de journée où une pluie constante et fine tombe sous un ciel entièrement gris, plutôt ces jours d’automne ou de printemps où la tempête projette, tord et déchire les nuages à travers le ciel. L’eau tombe par gerbes de temps à autre sur les vitres, empêchant parfois presque de lire et nous laissant presque inquiets quant à la stabilité de l’ensemble. De temps à autre un rayon de soleil perce et nous éblouit presque, jouant à sécher les parois de verres mais c’est trop s’avancer car il est déjà parti et le ciel redevient blanc puis noir. On finit par somnoler, la tête glisse sur l’épaule, le bouquin nous tombe des mains.
Les heures passent, on se réveille soudainement, il fait déjà nuit, ‘This Evening So Soon’ quelqu’un avait eu l’obligeance de nous tirer dessus une couverture. Groggy par le réveil, la bouche un peu pâteuse et la tête lourde, on range nos affaires, puis on se décide à quitter la véranda. Le vent s’est un peu calmé, la pluie s’est amenuisée mais le ciel semble plus chargé qu’avant. Pas de lune ni d’étoiles visibles en perspective cette nuit.
‘Gene’ c’est la nuit noire, l’obscurité, le sommeil, la fatigue. On entend le bruit du vent dans les peupliers malmenés et peut-être au loin des coups d’orage. On est bien content d’être à l’intérieur, au chaud et au sec, les lumières vacillent, une courte coupure de courrant remet le radio réveil au 00:00 clignotant, déjà on sent que le sommeil s’empare de nous et l’on glisse la tête sous les draps dans un sentiment de sécurité voguant peu à peu vers les rêves et la béatitude de l’ensommeillement.
Place alors à la plage titulaire, plus complexe, sorte de rêve où se chevauchent des fragments de souvenirs piochés durant la journée écoulée. ‘Suspension’ a ainsi un caractère onirique évident, fait fi des logiques de structures entre variations, vides soudains et bourdonnement qui vibrent puis s’éteignent comme ils étaient apparus. C’est un peu comme si Oren Ambarchi jetait au crayon des petits traits épars sur une toile, qui peu à peu constituent l’ébauche d’un paysage par surimpression. Réalisation, qui tient autant de la peinture que de l’œuvre musicale. On finit bouche bée et admiratif quand dans les dernières minutes tout prend forme. Un état de grâce.
S’en suit alors une longue ligne de sommeil profond, à l’horizon lisse et dégagé, ‘As Far as the Eye Can See’. Un exercice de drone. Le vent s’est éteint, la zone de pluie peu à peu s’éloigne laissant un ciel dégagé à l’est, encore grisé de quelques traînées. Bientôt le soleil émergera, en attendant on dort à poings fermé et Oren Ambarchi nous laisse avec trois petits points de suspension longuement étirés et qui se dissolvent peu à peu dans l’atmosphère.
Recommandé. Si vous avec succombé à Rafael Toral et Fennesz, il n’y a pas de raison qu’il n’en soit pas de même avec Oren Ambarchi.
The Wire (UK):
Like his peers Main, Dean Roberts, James Plotkin, Fennesz and Pimmon, Sydney based artist Oren Ambarchi's work is rooted in an exploration of the guitar. Eschewing its popular usage, Ambarchi re-routes the instrument into a zone of alien abstraction where it's no longer easily identifiable as itself. Instead it's a laboratory for extended sonic investigation.
Insulation is a well-focused, neatly varied work that falls somewhere between the concrète constructions of Tod Dockstader and the abstract soundscaping of Pan Sonic or the Mego crew. Each track is a self-contained entity exploring fresh terrain - from chaotically layered clashes to eerie, isolationist incursions - even as it gets along with its neighbours. Most surprising is how Ambarchi avoids any form of computer processing or editing.
Dense with activity, "Study No. 3" consists of manic, obsessively layered bursts of sound:splinters and shards of punctuation exploding across one another in a brilliant riot, like a roomful of chattering, self-activating electronic toys, or choppy strings of code being pulled from the ether. Avoiding repetition, Ambarchi's spatial awareness is impeccable. "Simon" strings an assortment of of carefully processed events around a series of pauses, while "Lungs" forms a clever collage of locked-groove clicks, bleeps, bassy tone bursts and background flicker.
With plenty of low end activity, the album has a particularly visceral impact. Waves and smears of heavy bass wash against the body or burst outwards in sudden, shuddering jolts. Drones distort and spear outwards as irritants, while the layers of micro-activity bristle and barb against the skin. (David Howell)
Renegade axe-men keep raising the bar for one another, making it more difficult to push the envelope of six-strings-and-an-amp possibilities. Christian Fennesz and Kevin Drumm may dominate the current heat of guitar innovation, but these popular contenders would be wise to look out for Oren Ambarchi. The Sydney-based musician, late of such diverse projects as the JP-noise-flavored Phlegm and Ambarchi/Avenaim's The Alte Rebbe's Niggun (Tzadik), is coming up from the outside with some impressive new tricks up his sleeve. Ambarchi has been self-releasing solo guitar recordings for a while, but Insulation is his first missive to the mass market. Like his peers, Ambarchi seems intent on making his improvised performances sound like anything but solo-guitar performances. He skillfully transcends the instrument‚s conventional range, turning Insulation into a parade of guitar-sonic impossibilities - watery gurgle, wildly zigzagging piezoelectric effects ("Lungs"), percussive tattoos ("Murmur") ˆ euphonic feedback fabrications, and harmonic afterimages. "Simon" and "Preamble" stretch the guitar's palette to include expressive reed-chirps, chimes, tongue-flicked brass emulation, and mewling ghost notes. Waves of derived sound wash in rough ripples over the shallow rhythmic bed of the 14+-minute "Snork" one of several collaborations with Adelaide's Matthew Thomas.
Considering Ambarchi's source, rhythm is a mystifying constant on Insulation. "Concurrents", "Lungs", and "Murmur" incorporate insistent, insinuating pulse rhythms - some quite disruptive - that imply extensive computer trickery. The pseudo-breakbeat maneuvers of Ambarchi and Thomas‚ "Strategem" and the looped glitch entanglements of their "La Notte" seem similarly dependent upon sequencing. "L'eclisse", dedicated to Ambarchi's father, recalls the fascinating suspended-in-air harmonic composition of Polwechsel guitarist Burkhard Stangl (see his dazzling Récital CD on Durian) but again echoes with a faint background pulse. Remarkably, Ambarchi claims to have foregone all editing artifice and computer sleight on Insulation. These are spontaneous performances, relying solely upon his technical ingenuity. Which certainly makes the show-stopping "Study No. 1" and "Study No. 3," dizzy musique concrète-styled displays of cartoon-ish electroacoustic noises, all the more astonishing. If Ambarchi can do this with a guitar - and his results stand admirably alongside even the most splice-intensive "old-school" efforts - I can't imagine what other feats of six-string defiance this crafty guitarist might have in stock.
Australia's experimental musicians have a reputation for drawing extraordinary sounds from unexpected objects. Alan Lamb applies contact microphones to Outback telegraph wires, extracting raw, exhilarating tones from wire and wind. Adelaide's Matthew Thomas composes with the static sampled from between AM and FM radio bands. Add Sydney guitarist Oren Ambarchi to this esteemed company.
Though comfortable in pop, punk, and other "conventional" settings, Ambarchi is happiest when turning his guitar towards more expansive and exploratory means. In the spirit of such renegade axe-men as AMM's Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, and American adherents Kevin Drumm and Jim O'Rourke, Ambarchi's solo improvisations are concerned with making a guitar sound like anything-but-a-guitar. Considering its limited source, INSULATION is nothing less than a parade of sonic impossibilities. Ambarchi's performances transcend his instrument‚s apparent range, offering watery gurgle, euphonically fabricated feedback, shimmering phantom-notes, wildly zigzagging piezoelectric effects, expressive chirps, and harmonic ghosts.
The intimated pulse-rhythms of "Concurrents", "Lungs", and "Murmurs" imply extensive computer trickery, as do the pseudo-breakbeat maneuvers of "Strategem". Remarkably, Ambarchi shuns any computerized contrivance or editing artifice, relying solely upon technical ingenuity. That makes such showstoppers as "Study No. 1" and "Study No. 3", dizzy musique concrète-styled displays of amusing electroacoustic noises, all the more astonishing.
Blow Up (Italy):
Just run and get a copy of Insulation. The right key to lock behind you the doors of the old millennium. And if you can do something else: buy another copy and give it to a friend who is resistant to change. Once you have fulfilled this task, come back and read this review, which is the review of the record which the Australian Jew clears the sound of the guitar from the debris of the past, looks ahead and marks a synthesis of influences such as minimalism, traditional aboriginal music (which was the cradle of minimalism), improvised music, Pink Floydian hallucinations, ambient, contemporary electronic...and he condenses them in authentic new forems made by melodic audio games and/or rhythmical, which even when chaos seems to have taken over, show a clever organisational capability. The words contained in the press release by Touch point out that it is made with just a guitar and without any computer processing or editing - these words could turn out to work against the promotion of a work which is more in line with new electronic music - Pan Sonic, for example - than with any traditional guitar work.
Having as a background hardcore and noise, Ambarchi is a classical example of a musician who could be accused of being technically incapable and musically inconsistent - Hendrix stimulates the same consideration. The point is clearly pointless, especially considering that Ambarchi has given proof of his excellant technical skill - when we reviewed his Tzadik CD, we spoke of "indulgence in progressive temptation or in slanted synthesis similar to Buckethead." It doesn't matter if you forget where you read his name for the first time - the important thing is that you remember it because you will hear it again.
With the ongoing efforts of adventurers, whose operation areas vary from proto-industrial to minimal experimentation, the guitar surpassed its mainstream uses and captured an important position as an experimental-weapon in search for new horizons. Sydney based musician Oren Ambarchi is one of those 6-string adventurers who tend to dance on the outer limits of the instrument's capacity. "Insulation" is his first official effort, made possible by Touch. What distinguishes "Insulation" from other guitar-oriented experimentation in that field is Mr. Ambarchi's sincere dedication to the old-good methods. The album's 11 songs are made without computer editing and conjured up on a sonic terrain which's "broken" air may cause a tasty flashback. Yet it will be unjust to count "Insulation" just an album with a retro value, not merely because it is not deprived of the atmospheric & textual qualities of the current products but also because of the good degree Oren Ambarchi has, in balancing the abstract and the concrete on a single line. Throughout the album, the pendulum swings over a rich variety of fragments, each demostrate a different direction that guitar can face in the hands of an innovative musician : Gurgling sounds that feign the aquatic ambience, crunchy collages calling forth the spirits of ancestors, tickling and buzzing minimal gestures that sound like a twisted toy orchestra and so on. All are bound to each other with smooth lines which do not cause a slightest change in the sonic temperature and therefore prevent ecclectism. Atmosphere is another quality "Insulation" is well-focused on - while the term concrete is thought to be referred to the dreggy bottom of music, Oren Ambarchi sets a fascinating mood which is not easily matched by anyone else. "Insulation" is surely not for the addicts of devastating noise and akin sonorities, neither for those who enjoy the mirror-shows in experimentalism : this is, with all it's subtlety, a piece for lucid listeners who're willing to see how deeps can be traced without pulling the triggle of exaggeration. [M.Y.]
Bizarre musique concrete achieved strictly from a guitar. On this amazing album, Sydney, Australia-based Oren Ambarchi joins an elite cadre of guitarists who are expanding the instrument1s potential as a sound generator. (See also Kevin Drumm, Christian Fennesz and Hans Reichel.) That no computer processing or editing has occurred here beggars belief. The music on these 11 tracks derives strictly from Ambarchi's guitar, although fellow Aussie experimenter Matthew Thomas collaborates on three of Insulation's pieces (what he does remains unclear, but the works on which he appears are among the disc's best). Rather than displaying virtuoso fretboard typing or creating memorable riffs like more conventional guitar heroes, Ambarchi crafts minutely detailed musique concrete or rather the illusion of the type of music academic composers painstakingly constructed from spliced tapes of non-musical objects. His work also has some of the trademark elements heard in much current computer-based music. Both Study No. 12 and Study No. 3 could be Pierre Henry compositions from four decades ago, with their disjunctive stream of disorientingly fascinating sounds randomly flowing by your ears. Insulation's peak, though, occurs on Snork, as Ambarchi stereo-pans skittering insectoid utterances, subaquatic slooshes and engine drones to immersive, psychedelic effect. It feels like you're trapped in a submarine as water enters the vessel and enormous termites ominously chatter. Now that's refreshing.
Ambarchi's insulation sounds much like the recent guitar-meets-glitch work of Fennesz and Pita, but with a considerable difference: a miracle of non-multitracking, Insulation was made without computer processing or editing. A skilled improv player, the Australian Ambarchi combines nimble fingers with a compledx array of effects pedals, creating "live" what sounds like hours worth of laptop labor. The result for the listener is akin to being caught in a web of electrical interference. The sound swells around you, a delicate balance of buzzing and silence that cuts time out of the picture entirely. What's hard to fathom, given Ambarchi's method, is how he creates so many layers and threads with vaned textures and timbres that move simultaneously in different directions. The obvious descriptors - the hum, the crackle, the static - hardly do justice to a sound that's as much felt (in the belly, on the surface of the skin) as heard. [Philip Sherburne]
The Sound Projector (UK):
An excellent solo work from this Sydney-based musician, this one with a domestic release, following closely on the heels of his solo record Stacte, which he released as a vinyl LP on his own Jerker Productions label last year. Another guitar record this, but much more fully realised and coherent as a work of art. 11 segments of guitar tape-work are presented together as pretty much a single suite. This music is not noise and it's not feedback! If anything it is modern electro-acoustic treatments, of sounds whose origin happens to be a guitar - a guitar in the hands of a gifted player, no doubt, but here we've got something as far removed from any kind of conventional guitar 'playing' as you could wish for. With the possible exception of the more recent work of Robert Fripp, who has extensively treated his solos with two Revox tape recorders in a live setting for his Soundscape series.
Realising three of these tracks with the aid of Matthew Thomas, Oren is in fact 'playing' his amplifier, his filters, his echo unit and studio (especially the overdub facility) as much as his 'axe'. Steadfastly refusing any normal or recognisable or familiar sounds, Oren arranges a series of non-specific bass throbs, underwatery squelches, clacks and echoes, and spaceship motor whines within a sort of vague, rhythmical pattern. Effective it emphatically is - very quickly, you'll find yourself immersed in this astonishing world and lost within a land of wonder and mystery. Skip to track five, 'Simon', if your desire is to hear a masterful nod of the trilby to Pierre Schaeffer, for here we have what I think must be backwards tapes and that haunting muted klang that evokes an old grandfather clock chime. Or the eight track, called simply 'Study No 3', if all-out mayhem is your bag - this one is a constantly fragmenting kaleidoscope featuring collage and layers in a hyperactive whirl. Elsewhere, the more solid 'throbby' tracks might suggest a stripped down form of Techno to true lovers of the genre.
This issue lends itself well to the Jon Wozencroft packaging which is such a distinctive feature of the Touch series. He's gone for a blue-and-turquoise key, fitting for this very contemporary Blues record, for that's what it is - there is true emotion here, and it's melancholy in tone. The final track 'L'eclisse' is dedicated to the artist's father, and it's an achingly poignant valediction.
"Oren Ambarchi - Guitar". That's the full extent of the credits on this record, but folk picking this is not. Insulation sounds like few guitar records have before, and this Antipodean sound artist seems to be making more use of digital technology and electro-acoustic techniques than his six-string. In some ways, this is a counterpart to Fennesz's recent full-length (also on Touch). Insulation consists of 11 very low-end bits of feedback given form by some kind of processing. As a result, it is far from the drenched buzz you'd associate with "live" guitar droning. Much of the record is oddly brooding. "Snork", for example, is particularly foreboding as a buzzing telegraph signal keeps passing ominously into view, as if approaching on a radar screen, whilst surrounded by faint wails and brushes of sound. Menacing and seemingly sub-aquatic, this is Ambarchi at his best. The middle few tracks go nowhere fast, rooted in a series of queasy clanks and judders, but he shows more than enough flashes of inspiration to keep me interested in his next recording. This is essentially guitar sound in an advanced state of decomposition; it requires some assiduous work on the part of the listener to extract its full potential, but it's well worth preserving with if low-key intrigue drives you. (John Gibson)
tijd cultuur (Belgium):
Gedisciplineerd Death metal, experimentele jazz, surfrock, zuivere improvisatie en musical zijn genres waar de uit Sydney afkomstige Oren Ambarchi al van proefde. Die stijlen synthetiseerden met Phlegm, een driekoppige band die zich ook niet vies toonde van een streepje elevator music of soundtracks van spaghettiwesterns. Met die groep liet de muzikant, bijgestaan door de geluidsanarchisten Nicholas Kamvissis (bas) en Rob Avenaim (drums), een haast dierlijke energie los: krijsend en zingend als een losgeslagen Muppet gaf Ambarchi de gitaar en zijn found footage instrumentarium tot met de tanden toe er van langs. Die woestheid maakt op zijn laatste werkstuk plaats voor Spartaanse discipline. Vorig jaar toonde Ambarchi met het album ÔAlter Rebbe's Niggun' (verschenen op John Zorn's volprezen Tzadik label) al over die eigenschap te beschikken; deze keer zet de Australi‘r een stapje verder. De hoofdrol op ÔInsulation' gaat naar de elektrische gitaar. In elf tracks probeert Ambarchi daar alle mogelijkheden, behalve uiteraard de conventionele, uit te puren. Het resultaat klinkt ronduit verbluffend: de man die zowel inspiratie uit de popcultuur als uit de elekro-akoestische hoek haalt, cre‘ert met subtiele noisedrones, flarden feedback en repetitieve snaren gitaar een gewichtloze wereld. De troebele blik op een traag schuivend landschap die Ambarchi neerzet, wordt enkele malen bijgesteld. Mattwew Thomas, down under een op handen gedragen jong elektronicagenie, kleurt met Ôclicks & cuts' afkomstig van de sampler drie tracks bij. Toch hebben we meer bewondering veil voor Ambarchi's vingertalent. Hij voorziet de lange klanktapijten op ÔInsulation' immers Ôau naturel' van een repetitieve structuur. Zin voor tucht speelt sampler, synth en filterbank nog steeds naar huis. (Ive Stevenheydens)