Published on October 18th, 2016 | by John J Nicol0
Oren Ambarchi | Hubris
Hubris – the latest album by Oren Ambarchi – sits easily alongside previous albums such as Sagittarian Domain, Quixotism, and his collaboration with Thomas Brinkmann, The Mortimer Trap.
All utilize varying surface textures and instrumentation that gravitate around a rhythmic spine, yet Hubris offers at once the smoothest and most abrasive model yet.
The start of the recording builds around a beautiful, almost zither-like fragment that is quickly surrounded by smooth, pulsing electronic sounds. There’s a ghost of Donna Summer, or Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4, as this section begins to build.
In a series of false horizons, looping elements peel off into space continuously…
In a series of false horizons, looping elements peel off into space continuously. This is high-quality kaleidoscopic music draped around a wireframe.
Longer sounds move in, and then at about the 11-minute mark, the first of many weird things happens as isolated spacey synth-islands appear.
As each sound recedes, a new form, or treatment, emerges. New details are buffed up, new highlights appear. An arsenal of compatible fragments mesh and interact, illusionary stasis formed in an ever-changing broth.
The thoughtful sleeve design by Stephen O’Malley, in particular the detail on the cover of a sculpture by Daniel Druet, emphasizes the album’s graphic score. You have, in effect, a grid (made of dolls eyes!), composed of broadly similar elements. As more and more come together, they lose individuality and become a mass almost completely filling the space.
Rhythm, pattern, and monotony, but skewed, organic.
As far as the individuals involved in this recording go, we again have a cast that reads like an avant supergroup’s wet dream. Clearly Ambarchi has a wonderful address book full of open-minded friends. Crys Cole, Mark Fell, Will Guthrie, Arto Lindsay, Jim O’Rourke, Konrad Sprenger, Joe Talia, Ricardo Villalobos, and Keith Fullerton Whitman all work with great sensitivity to the structures mapped out by Ambarchi.
When BNU spoke to Ambarchi recently, he described his approach to Hubris as “wanting to get a bit more raw.” While that statement initially sounded odd on our first pass through, it’s clear that’s what’s happening as the third and final 16-minute track unfolds.
Again it echoes that familiar (more bulbous) pulse of the first track, but the sound is immediate and more physical. Live drums roll around in the mix, and it’s clear this is all about to erupt… Weird keyboard stabs come out of nowhere; we are now in some parallel Bitches Brew universe.
Slowly the crackly guitar amp fizzes. Every space, every crack in the music is filled in, covered up, and occupied. It’s relentless, and the last few minutes are exhilarating in a way that knocks you off your feet. If the first track was brain music, this is physical. Sparks are flying; dials are waving into the red.
The best albums pick you up and drop you off somewhere else. Hubris does that in spectacular style. It’s almost like a concise 41-minute showcase of the best in experimental conceptual music. It’s music to play loud, repeatedly, and it’s absolutely glorious.
Hubris is out now on vinyl and CD on Editions Mego.