Oren Ambarchi

(Copyright © 2003-2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Insulation (2000), 6/10
Persona (2001), 6/10
Suspension (2001), 7/10
Grapes From The Estate (2004), 6.5/10
Pendulum's Embrace (2007), 6/10
Lost Like A Star (2007), 6/10
A Final Kiss On Poisoned Cheeks (2008), 7.5/10 (EP)
Raga Ooty (2012), 7/10 (EP)
Sagittarian Domain (2012), 6.5/10 (EP)
Audience Of One (2012), 6.5/10
The Just Reproach (2013), 5/10
Alps (2014), 5/10
Quixotism (2014), 5/10
Tikkun (2014), 4.5/10
Sleepwalker's Conviction (2015),
Tongue Tied (2015),
Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow (2016), 6/10
Aithein (2016), 5/10
Hubris (2016), 6/10
Hence (2018), 5/10
Simian Angel (2019), 6/10
Ghosted (2022), 5/10
Shebang (2022), 5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Australian guitarist Oren Ambarchi (1969) specialized in manipulating the sounds of his guitar via a number of electronic and digital devices. The result has little to to do with guitars, and approaches the kind of music that is usually created with tone generators. Ambarchi credits Alvin Lucier as an influence, and his main recordings do mirror that static minimalism.

His early works were divided between a pseudo-jazz project, Stacte, which released Stacte (Jerker, 1998), Stacte.2 (Jerker, 1999) and the 37-minute piece of Stacte.3 (Plate Lunch, 2000 - Black Truffle, 2009), and a series of solo and collaborative albums that explored the texture and the formation of sound such as The Alter Rebbe's Nigun (Tzadik, 1999), a collaboration with Robbie Avenaim, Afternoon Tea (Ritornell, 2000), that documents two improvisations with Paul Gough (Pimmon), Keith Rowe, Peter Rehberg (Pita) and Christian Fennesz, Insulation (Touch, 2000), still devoted to chaotic atonal poems (performed on guitar only), and probably his first major recording, and Persona (E.R.S., 2001 - Black Truffle, 2009), also devoted to glitchy guitar music (Persona) and containing a version of Vogler.

Suspension (Touch, 2001 - Staubgold, 2002 - Touch, 2006) was the album that inaugurated his mature program, shifting the emphasis towards minimal events and silence. Tiny waterdrop-like revers, sub-bass vibrations and ephemeral glitches populate Wednesday. Instead of that random distribution of events, the twelve-minute Vogler focused on hypnotic cycles, each one lasting a bit too long but each one exploring cushioned timbres that require deep listening. The sleepy, oneiric Gene contains a fragile metronome that dialogues with sub-bass drones (alas with a weak coda of a drilling-grade drone). By comparison, the end of Suspension (after a lengthy section of hyper-bass droning) is new-age music: the music finally flows and sparkles, not quite melodic but at least soothing like windchimes The apex of Ambarchi's art comes with the slow, thin, transparent, floating texture of the 14-minute As Far As The Eye Can See. Here the drone is as light as a feather and it creates an atmosphere of angst and impotence as it morphs and settles in.

His exploration continued with: Sun (Preservation, 2001 - - Staubgold, 2003), a "pop" collaboration with Chris Townend, Stacte.4 (En/Of, 2002), Mort Aux Vaches - Song of Separation (Staalplaat, 2002), Flypaper (Staubgold, 2002), a collaboration with Keith Rowe on prepared guitar, Oystered (Audiosphere, 2003), a collaboration with Gunter Mueller and Voice Crack, Strange Love (For Ears, 2003), a collaboration with Gunter Mueller and Philip Samartzis, the droning My Days Are Darker Than Your Nights (Hapna, 2003), a collaboration with Swedish harmonium player Johan Berthling, Triste (Idea, 2003 - Southern Lord, 2005), which documents a live performance, Thumb (Gross, 2003), a collaboration with Keith Rowe, Sachiko M, Otomo Yoshihide, Rob Avenaim, as well as two collaborations with turntablist Martin Ng, namely Reconnaissance (Staubgold, 2001) and Vigil (Quecksilber, 2003), As it is often the case with prolific musicians whose last name is not Mozart, most of these recordings are mediocre.

Grapes From The Estate (Touch, 2004 - (Southern Lord, 2006) was Ambarchi's most important work since Suspension, but the style had changed significantly by then. Technically, it is based on the interaction of live instruments (mainly guitar but also drums) with computers. The sound is ambient but in a convoluted and glacial way. The austere, stylish and intensely introverted drones induce a fragile mood of melancholia. Corkscrew is almost ten minutes of very slow drones, alternating like ocean waves. A casually strummed guitar eventually emerges from the booming bass underworld of Girl With The Silver Eyes. The tolling of the guitar sample that marks the time in Stars Aligned Webs Spun becomes almost a music-box refrain after being calmly repeated for 20 minutes, an effect that is both surreal and soothing. The muffled pattern repeated at the beginning of Remedios The Beauty sounds like a ruder sloppier version of Terry Riley's Persian Surgery Dervishes. It's minimalism that does not aim for beauty but for unnerving psychology. The second section has a jazzy beat and plinking piano. As the piano gets its act together, a melody begins to come into focus, something akin a soulful tv theme of the 1960s.

Lost Like A Star (Bo'Weavil, 2007) collects a complex dance piece (for electric guitar, bowed instruments, samples, bells, cymbals and percussion) and the lengthy live performance The Final Option.

Ambarchi returned to the Stacte project with Stacte Motors (Western Vynils, 2006), that contains a 20-minute Cymbal Motor of cymbal drones and a 15-minutes Guitar Motor that harks back to Alvin Lucier's droning minimalism for overtones.

Squire (2006) is a guitar-duo collaboration with Keith Rowe.

Pendulum's Embrace (Southern Lord, 2007) continued the project started on Grapes From The Estate: overdubbing live instruments and manipulating them with a mixing board to obtain extended drones and minimalist repetition. The booming drumbeat of Fever A Warm Poison is so slow that one expects to hear a doom-metal band; instead it morphs into a sort of guitar blues, with a sub-bass vibration hovering over it. The transformation takes 17 minutes but it is exemplary of Ambarchi's ability to play with sound like a cat with a mouse. Trailing Moss In Mystic Glow is the "new age" piece du jour: when the unadulterated acoustic guitar joins the troubled sinister background noise, it automatically redeems it and humanizes it. were among the most fragile and melancholy works yet devised by Ambarchi, very slowly unfolding.

Sun's I'll Be The Same (Staubgold, 2007), another collaboration with Chris Townsend, delivered six ethereal folk-pop meditations against a backdrop of simple guitar strumming, field recordings and digital glitches.

The EP Destinationless Desire (Touch, 2008) for electric guitars, organ, bells, samples, percussion and "motorized cymbal" offers cyclical glitchy ambient music with a fluctuating organ drone (Highway Of Diamonds is really two pieces in one) and a distorted Buddhist-like invocation (Bleeding Shadow).

Spirit Transform Me (Tzadik, 2008) documents a collaboration with Zev.

A Final Kiss On Poisoned Cheeks (Table Of The Elements, 2008) is a one-sided etched 12", originally pressed on swirled turquoise vinyl. It contains a 20-minute piece that represents Ambarchi's ambient, glitchy and cinematic peak. At first we witness a slow build-up of faceless noises, almost like listening to the bouncing of a needle on a warped vinyl record. Then we enter a stout raga-like section, with a sitar-like drone surrounded by swarming electronic effects. Suddenly the music is very much alive and keeps picking up sounds. Eventually there are simply massive clusters of gloomy tones flying around, just waiting for something to happen. The music flounders, as if tired and afraid, until it reaches a point of extreme tension, twitching like incandescent tungsten that is about to crack. After that prolonged drill-like noise, the music, exhausted, peters out into a hissing vacuum with sparse bell tolls.

4G is the supergroup of Keith Rowe, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz and Toshimaru Nakamura, i.e. four former guitarists who mutated into digital composers. They debuted with the double-disc Cloud (Erstwhile, 2005) for guitars, electronics and laptop.

Burial Chamber Trio is a collaboration among Greg Anderson of SUNNO)), Oren Ambarchi and Mayhem's vocalist Attila Csihar that released Burial Chamber Trio (Southern Lord, 2007).

Intermission 2000-2008 (Touch, 2009) collects unreleased and rare tracks.

Oren Ambarchi, Jim O'Rourke and Keiji Haino collaborated on Tima Formosa (2010) and In A Flash Everything Comes Together As One There Is No Need For A Subject (2011).

Indeed (2011) is a duet between Oren Ambarchi and Jim O'Rourke. Behold (Mego, 2015), recorded between 2012 and 2013, was another collaboration between Oren Ambarchi and Jim O'Rourke.

The main reason for Audience Of One (Touch, 2012) to exist is the 33-minute chamber-group improvisation Knots (Eyvind Kang on viola), the rest being mostly filler. That long jam, however, overextends its welcome by several pointless minutes. Multiple layers of audio fibrillation and droning give birth to a sort of chaotic free-jazz jam that grows into a guitar-driven psychedelic freak-out. The coda, instead, seems to be a completely different pieces, a few minutes of dissonant chamber music.

Tima Formosa (2010), Imikuzushi (2012), Now While It's Still Warm Let Us Pour In All The Mystery (Black Truffle, 2013) and Only Wanting To Melt Beautifully Away Is It A Lack Of Contentment That Stirs Affection For Those Things Said To Be As Of Yet Unseen (Black Truffle, 2014) and Tea Time For Those Determined To Completely Exhaust Every Bit of This Body They've Been Given (Black Truffle, 2014) document jams with Keiji Haino and Jim O'Rourke.

In The Mouth - A Hand (october 2011) was a collaboration with Mats Gustafsson's Fire (Gustafsson on tenor sax, fender rhodes, organ, live electronics; Johan Berthling on electric bass; Andreas Werliin on drums).

Haino, Stephen O'Malley (bass) and Oren Ambarchi (drums) formed Nazoranai documented on the live Nazoranai (Ideologic, 2012) and on The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once Has it Arrived Already...? (Ideologic Organ Soma, 2014)

The hypnotic, tribal, motorik-inspired piece of Sagittarian Domain (Mego, 2012) moves out of the jungle when it is revitalized in the second part by a scorching guitar drone and eventually by furious cosmic noises. It ends (again, in a rather incoherent manner, like Knots) with a mournful string adagio.

Connected (Kranky, 2012) was a collaboration between Oren Ambarchi on guitar and Robin Fox on electronics, the soundtrack for a ballet.

Wreckage (Prisma, 2012) documents a collaboration between Oren Ambarchi, James Rushford and a chamber ensemble.

Cat's Squirrel (Black Truffle, 2013) that documents a live performance with Merzbow.

Grave Temple was the trio of Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O'Malley and Attila Csihar, documented on Holy Down (recorded in 2006), Le Vampire De Paris (2009), Ambient/Ruin (recorded in 2008 and earlier although released in 2013).

The three-song EP Raga Ooty (Bo Weavil, 2012) contains a live "raga" of 2009 for electric guitar and tamboura (a rather trivial 16-minute take on Indian classical music), a droning piece for acoustic guitar and sine wave generator (The Nilgiri Plateau, that sounds like a ensemble of zithers all strummed at the same time in different keys) and a devastating dissonant solo for electric guitar (Raga Ooty Slight Return, that sounds like a Gordon Mumma wall of noise or an excerpt from Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music).

The Just Reproach (Black Truffle, 2013) documents a collaboration between John Tilbury & Oren Ambarchi.

Alps (Dancing Wayang, 2014) was a collaboration with percussionist Eli Keszler: two side-long pieces recorded in june 2013.

The ambitious five-movement "symphony" Quixotism (Mego, 2014) features John Tilbury (piano), Thomas Brinkmann (computable drums), Matt Chamberlain (drums & electronics), Crys Cole ( contact mics & brushes), Jim O'Rourke and Eyvind Kang (bowed gender & violas), plus the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. The first movement is 18 minutes of pulsing electronics that challenge the underlying instruments (initially only sporadic piano notes) to be heard. The second movement lowers the beat but the instruments are still used as discrete, not continuous, sounds: plucked, touched, scraped, and only one at the time; a weird form of non polyphonic counterpoint. In the third movement the beat has become a truly propulsive dancefloor beast, and it is Thomas Brinkmann's show. After the chaotic, videogame-like fourth movement, the fifth movement shifts paradigm completely, bringing in the tablas and unleashing wailing string drones. Whatever the intentions, the implementation is disappointing. The music rarely achieves a consistency to justify the plethora of (great) musicians drafted here.

Tikkun (Cuneiform, 2014) documents a collaboration with fellow guitarist Richard Pinhas, with additional help from Joe Talia (drums, effects) Merzbow (loops, noise, effects), Duncan Pinhas (sequences, effects, noise) and Eric Borelva (additional drums).

The 40-minute piece of Sleepwalker's Conviction (Black Truffle, 2015) documents a live collaboration with a 20-piece chamber ensemble.

Tongue Tied (Hapna, 2015) contains two lengthy compositions.

Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow (november 2014 - Mego, 2016) reunited the guitar trio with Tetuzi Akiyama and Oren Ambarchi, along with Rob Mazurek (cornet) and contains the 21-minute Blues Deceiver and the 19-minute Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow.

The two lengthy improvisations of Aithein (Karlrecords, 2016) were live collaborations with Stefano Pilia (guitar) and Massimo Pupillo (bass).

The 40-minute piece of Hubris (Mego, 2016) was recorded with Jim O'Rourke (bass and synthesizers), Mark Fell (computer), Will Guthrie drums), Joe Talia (drums and bass), Ricardo Villalobos (electronics), Arto Lindsay (guitar), Konrad Sprenger (guitar), Keith Fullerton Whitman (synthesizer) and Crys Cole (voice). This album closed the "rhythmic" trilogy after Sagittarian Domain and Quixotism.

Hence (Mego, 2018), recorded between 2015 and 2016, documents the third collaboration between Oren Ambarchi and Jim O'Rourke.

Ghosted (Drag City, 2022) documents a live collaboration with bassist Johan Berthling, and drummer Andreas Werliin, 40 minutes of hypnotic ticking and quasi-gamelan repetition.

Simian Angel (july 2018 - Editions Mego, 2019) was a collaboration with Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista which contains Palm Sugar Candy (16:03), an austere exhibition of the science of subliminal organ-like guitar drones, with Baptista's percussion barely audible amid the extraterrestrial signals of the guitar, and Simian Angel (20:13), with the Brazilian percussion more prominent and the guitar becoming a piano indulging in a romantic sonata.

Tchatchkes (2021) contains live performances. Nor surfaced on Leone (2021), a split album with Loren Mazzacane Connors.

Shebang (2022) is a four-part composition, another blend of another hypnotic rhythmic work a` la Ghosted, and again a bit trivial (or just too long).

Among his countless collaborations were: Hotel Record (2017), with Canadian soundsculptor Crys Cole; Pale Calling (2016) and Face Time (2018), both with Kassel Jaeger (French composer Francois Bonnet) and Australian composer James Rushford; Certainly (2018), with Cole and Swedish audiovisual artist Leif Elggren; The Vanishing (2019), the third album with turntablist Martin Ng; Oglon Day (2019), with Mark Fell, Australian improviser Will Guthrie and Sam Shalabi, Placelessness (2023), with Chris Abrahams and Robbie Avenaim, etc.

By 2023 he had recorded more than 80 albums, including more than 30 live albums. The quality was inversely proportional to the quantity.

At his best, Ambarchi's improvisastions crossed the border, back and forth, of post-rock, minimalism, and ambient jazz, like in As Far As The Eye Can See, Remedios The Beauty, Fever A Warm Poison, and A Final Kiss On Poisoned Cheeks. Starting with the sprawling compositions Knots and Sagittarian Domain in 2012, and continuing with Quixotism (2014) and Hubris (2016), his music became less cohesive and more redundant.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
What is unique about this music database