Oren Ambarchi - Shebang Music Album Reviews

Oren Ambarchi - Shebang Music Album Reviews
The experimental guitarist’s latest piece thrives on tension—between pulse and drone, repetition and variance, and, particularly, between the naturalism of the musicians’ playing and the artifice of the mix.

As a composer, Oren Ambarchi tends to think like a drummer. That’s what he started out as, before an encounter with the noise titan Keiji Haino inspired him to pick up the guitar. For the past decade, most of the Australian musician’s solo recordings—which are in fact often densely collaborative affairs—have been headlong tumbles into spirals of texture and groove. The first of these pieces was “Knots,” the 33-minute centerpiece of 2012’s Audience of One: He began by asking drummer Joe Talia to play an extended sequence in the style of legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette, then recorded himself in conversation with Talia’s playing, laying down cascades of feedback. Over the years, “Knots”—which he and Talia debuted on the 2011 live album Hit & Run—has continued to unspool, yielding two live albums (one with orchestra) and supplying the flexible backbone of virtually all his longform studio work. Quixotism, Hubris, Simian Angel, and now Shebang have all been modeled after its sprawl.

Listening to duo recordings of “Knots,” it can be hard to imagine that there are just two people involved; Ambarchi’s playing, assisted by digital effects, sounds bigger and unrulier than anything you might expect to hear coming out of a single instrument. On his subsequent albums, meanwhile, he is everywhere and nowhere at once: Disappearing into the producer’s role, he wrings a carefully distilled chug out of the most unwieldy virtual ensembles. Between 2014’s Quixotism and 2016’s Hubris, his collaborators have included minimal-techno producers Thomas Brinkmann and Ricardo Villalobos, improvising pianist John Tilbury, tabla player U-zhaan, computer-music number-cruncher Mark Fell, and guitarist Arto Lindsay, whose work spans no wave, jazz, and Brazilian music. It can be hard to believe that these albums were collaged together from multiple sessions and players scattered around the globe; there’s a real live-in-the-room feel to their shape-shifting permutations. That’s particularly true of Shebang, Ambarchi’s most ambitious and absorbing piece to date.

In keeping with Ambarchi’s predilection for longform works, the 35-minute Shebang is a single composition divided into four parts that seamlessly fuse together. Part I begins with Ambarchi—credited on “guitars and whatnot”—playing a chiming melody so simple it could almost be a nursery rhyme. Bright, consonant notes glisten like dewdrops, and over the first couple of minutes, contrapuntal lines multiply, like a spiderweb revealing itself in the path of the morning sun. But even at the outset, the guitar’s burbling accidentals offer cause for curiosity; there’s some kind of digital trickery afoot, even though its precise nature is unclear.

Shebang thrives on tension—between pulse and drone, repetition and variance, and, particularly, between the naturalism of the musicians’ playing and the artifice of the mix. The piece reaches its first climax some five minutes in, as Ambarchi’s percolating guitar is engulfed in a cloud of almost Stereolab-like ahhhhs. Paring back the thicket of guitars, a Hammond-like thrumming rises from below; steady cymbal taps announce the arrival of Talia’s drums. Then the soundfield stretches and smears as Sam Dunscombe’s bleating bass clarinet tugs against a snare flam, and dissonance leeches into the background, suggesting a momentary flash of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock.

A succession of players each gets time in the spotlight. In part II, pedal-steel player BJ Cole—a session veteran whose credits include Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” as well as records with T. Rex, Cat Stevens, and Björk—paints on a slow, patient melody that drifts untethered to Talia’s stuttering groove, whose brisk hits and wandering pulses mirror the pointillism of Ambarchi’s playing. Part III belongs to pianist Chris Abrahams, of Australian improvising trio the Necks: While Ambarchi’s frequent collaborator Johan Berthling sketches out a dub-techno bassline on upright bass, Abrahams lays down staccato chords with his left hand and lights into a ruminative, searching solo with his right. Finally, in part IV, Julia Reidy turns their 12-string guitar into a fistful of icicles, emphasizing the brittleness of Shebang’s 16th-note groove. It’s anyone’s guess what else is going on in the finale, as the sound thickens and churns; Abrahams’ piano is in there somewhere, along with Cole’s pedal steel, both a liquid presence presaging the melting tones of Jim O’Rourke’s synthesizer in the minute-long denouement.

On a measure-by-measure level, Shebang is an embarrassment of riches. Talia’s supple clockworks suggest that he’s a machine made of flesh; O’Rourke’s playing, however brief, is so expressive you could build an entire album around it. But as gripping as any solo highlights may be, they’re always folded back into the whole. The evolution of the piece is so gradual that it may come as a shock to realize that the opening section is in a completely different key than the bulk of the piece. The groove is endless, the focus constantly shifting. Even when Ambarchi’s instrument is hard to pick out, his vision is unmistakable. He once described his interest in the pursuit of “sound as a landscape”; on Shebang, armed with a kaleidoscope in place of binoculars, he takes us further into the wilderness than ever before.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Oren Ambarchi - Shebang Music Album Reviews Oren Ambarchi - Shebang Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 11, 2022 Rating: 5


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