Moka requested a while ago that I bring some of Oren Ambarchi’s music to the site; I finally got a chance to get all of my cds in order and was able to put together a little mini (incomplete) history of Mr. Ambarchi.
I’ll start by saying that Oren is capable of a good number of sounds and moods, however he has spent a lot of time perfecting his “signature sound” through the usage of a prepared guitar set up. Subtle tones almost like a music box bounce around and pop and click and are time-stretched. You could call it drone music if it weren’t so speckled with notes, which is why I was always drawn to much of it – I like some variety with my drone even if that doesn’t make much sense.
Lately Oren has been moonlighting with the infamous doom metal group Sunn O))) and peformed on their recent critically acclaimed Black One album. This is at least a million miles away from the sunny pop he created in the Australian group Sun a couple of years earlier.
So, I’ll start with his most recent solo album on Touch, Grapes from the Estate. This is easily his most accomplished solo work to date. He decided to incorporate additional instrumentation such as drums, and I think it’s nothing short of stunning. The mood falls somewhere between the spaghetti western openness of Brokeback and the warm pocket of reverberating dub which is Pan American. Here’s an edit of Oren Ambarchi’s Remedios the Beauty from that album. This is one of my favorite songs of the last few years.
Next I will repost (thanks Carl Kruger / Moka!) Oren’s remix of Tape, from the Operette remix album. Getting him together with those Swedes was a great idea…the music box feel definitely comes into play on this track: Summa Afrique (Oren Ambarchi Remix). I would also recommend Oren’s collaboration with Tape’s Jonas Berthling, “My Days Are Darker Than Your Nights (excerpt)” on Hapna. It’s one big, long, mind-bending drone.
Triste was recently reissued on Southern Lord and showcases some of Oren’s beginnings in his current sound. This “remake” by Oren with organist Tom Recchion is a personal favorite of mine. Tom’s swirling patterns on the organ bring a lot to the original track. Oren Ambarchi – Triste Part 1 Remake (edit). The next track comes from his 2nd album on Touch, Suspension. In some ways Suspension is his most succinct statement in album form. You definitely feel suspended as you listen to the drawn out notes stretched beyond their ordinary capabilities, and he was really able to bring both light and dark sounds together across the album. No easy accomplishment for a drone-based record. This selection is one of the darker moments from the record. Play at dusk. Oren Ambarchi – This Evening So Soon. (I recommend the vinyl version of Suspension available from Staubgold, as it has a bunch of extra remixes by Jim O’Rourke, Tim Barnes, Phil Niblock, etc.)
Now to take things way back…Before he went solo, Oren played in a noise rock trio called Phlegm with Robbie Avenaim. I will admit, I haven’t been able to track down any of their works, except for this post-Phlegm release with Robbie called Alter Rebbe’s Nigun on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. This was done for the Radical Jewish Culture series back in 1999. The track Beriah (meaning Creation) is a wild adventure, containing a pleasant backing glockenspiel melody that is layered with a guitar and drum freak out that would make Sonic Youth proud. Patience is definitely important on this one…but give it a chance, the ending is great. Oren Ambarchi & Robbie Avenaim – Beriah (edit).
The most interesting thing about Oren, is that his most unorthodox music is that of Sun…you could play this stuff for your parents. It’s sunshine pop of the highest order. Roll down your windows, let the wind blow through your hair, and kiss your mate. Sun – Sleepin’. This album was a favorite of ours when we used to live in Savannah and take afternoon drives through the marshes.
Note: Most of these songs have been edited to shorter versions. While I wouldn’t normally say that is the best way to appreciate someone’s music, I think this situation called for it. Oren’s music is best appreciated in its entirety and many of these tracks are two to three times longer than what you are hearing. Go pick up any and all of these records, I highly recommend it, and promise you won’t be disappointed.