T33.18 – Oren Ambarchi “Suspension”

CD – 6 tracks

Track listing:

1. wednesday
2. vogler
3. this evening so soon
4. gene
5. suspension
6. as far as the eye can see

Oren Ambarchi is a Sydney-based musician with a longstanding interest in transcending conventional instrumental approaches. He has worked with artists as diverse as Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, Sachiko M and Phill Niblock. Suspension is Ambarchi’s second release for Touch, after Insulation [Touch # T33.16, 1999]. Although continuing his explorations of the guitar, Oren has almost completely discarded the deconstructed, fragmentary approach to composition that he employed on 1999’s excellent Insulation. This disc is more akin to his remarkable Stacte series of LPs (treasure them if you have them, for they are all but gone), where compositions have the exploratory freedom, spontaneity and fluidity of improvised music, yet contain the determination, discipline and solidity of composers such as Alvin Lucier (of whom Ambarchi is an open admirer). As the title suggests, the listener is suspended in dense tonal fields or complete silence; adrift, never touching the bottom, never reaching the surface but continually held in the realm of the instant. Movement and flux contend with stasis and rigidity. Sounds continually unravel and solidify. These works are endless, eternal, never opting for obvious resolutions or easy destinations. Often beginning in abstraction, seemingly random and irregular pulses and tones coalesce and converge. All elements are part of a greater logic, which reveals itself through intense, immersive and repeated listenings.

Suspension is Ambarchi’s most total and completely realised effort to date.

Guitar recorded in 2000 at jerker house & big jesus burger
Mastered @ Country Masters by Denis Blackham.
Photography: Jon Wozencroft.

Oren Ambarchi is an electronic guitarist and percussionist with longstanding interests in transcending conventional instrumental approaches. Born in Sydney in 1969, he has been performing live since 1986. His work focuses mainly on the exploration of the guitar, re-routing 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. He has performed and recorded with Martin Ng (Australia), Christian Fennesz (Austria), Otomo Yoshihide (Japan), Pimmon (Australia), John Zorn (USA), Voice Crack (Switzerland), Sachiko M (Japan), Keith Rowe (UK), Phill Niblock (USA), Günter Müller (Switzerland), Evan Parker (UK), Toshimaru Nakamura(Japan) and many more. He recently toured with sunn0))), also contributing to their ‘Black One’ album from 2005.


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]

foxydigitalis (USA):

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]

Timeoff (net):

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]

Grooves (USA):

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 (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]

Rockerilla (Italy):

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]:

DP 5/6
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.

Aquarius [net]:
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.

Incursion [net]:

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.

Matamore (France):

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.

gg2g4ink@javanet.com (USA):

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.

Illuminations (Turkey):

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.]

USA (net):

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.

Grooves (USA):

“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)