TO:83V - Oren Ambarchi "Audience of One"

DLP - 5 tracks - Limited edition of 1000

Artwork & photography: Jon Wozencroft
Cut by Jason at Transition
Originally mastered by Francois Tetaz at Moose, Melbourne

Track listing:

A: Salt
B: Knots pt. 1
C: Knots pt. 2
D1: Passage
D2: Fractured Mirror

[Knots has been edited by the artist for vinyl into two parts]

On "Audience of One", Oren Ambarchi presents a four-part suite which moves from throbbing minimalism to expansive song-craft to ecstatic free-rock. His previous solo albums for Touch exhibited a clear progression towards augmenting and embellishing his signature bass-heavy guitar tones with fragile acoustic instrumentation. Audience of One, while also existing in clear continuity with these recordings, opens the next chapter.

Remarkable in its confidence and breadth, but also in the sensuous immediacy of its details, this is the first time a single record has come close to encapsulating Ambarchi’s musical personality in its full range and singularity. The techniques and strategies developed in his refined improvisational work with Keith Rowe and his explorations of the outer limits of rock with Sunn O))) and Keiji Haino are both in evidence, alongside the meticulous attention to detail and composition of his solo works. And on the cover of Ace Frehley’s ‘Fractured Mirror’ which closes the record, Ambarchi even points to his roots as a classic rock fanatic, in an epic yet faithful version which extends the shimmering guitar patters of the original into a rich field of phase patters reminiscent of the classic American minimalism of Reich and Riley.

The album features a multitude of collaborators, who, far from appearing in incidental roles, are integral to the pieces on which they perform: on ‘Salt’, Ambarchi paints a hypnotic, chiming backdrop for Paul Duncan’s (Warm Ghost) vocals, and Joe Talia’s virtuoso drumming and driving cymbals are at the core of the epic ‘Knots’, in which Ambarchi, alongside a chamber arrangement by Eyvind Kang, weaves a net of frequencies and textures with the organic push and pull of a 70s psych jam, the bass response of a doom metal ritual and the psycho-acoustic precision of an Alvin Lucier composition.

On his previous records, Ambarchi’s signature guitar tone was the ever-present bedrock over which other elements sounded. At moments on Audience of One, this disappears entirely, as on the beautiful ‘Passage’, which, recalling the 70’s Italian non-academic minimalism of Roberto Cacciapaglia and Giusto Pio, is composed of overlapping tones from Hammond organ and wine glasses, Jessika Kenney's voice, various acoustic instruments, and the delicate amplified textures of Canadian sound-artist Crys Cole. Rather than being provided by any particular sound, the unified feel of Audience to One stems simply from the unique, patient sensibility Ambarchi has developed over the last twenty years; abstracting musical forms into their barest forms, while somehow always managing to leave their emotive power intact. [Francis Plagne]


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www.orenambarchi.com


Reviews:

The Sound Projector (UK):

So what has good old Oren Ambarchi been up to the last coupla years? We don’t seem to have reviewed any of his records since TSP 18. The more we heard from this seriously talented Australian musician, the more facets appeared…a guitar-player of highly avant-melodic dimensions, he evolved and crafted an incredible personal style and distinctive sound on his instrument which to this day no-one else understands how to achieve. He also continued to amass an enormous collection of extreme Black Metal records during the years when that genre was hot, just because he loved the stuff; and also found time to pursue pop music in his band Sun, tour with Sunn O))), and appear in various doom metal projects such as Gravetemple and the Burial Chamber Trio. Not to mention appearing alongside improvising guitar veteran Keith Rowe as a member of 4G. Talk about your hardest-working man in showbiz…

Now we have his new record Audience Of One (TOUCH TO:83) which we received 17 February 2012. It’s a pretty unclassifiable album. I suppose the first thing to say is that it’s very beautiful music, and that it’s also rather lonely and sad in its fragile beauty. Through slowness, stillness, economy of means and other refining tactics, Oren has composed and directed four pieces of exceptionally poignant contemporary music. Did I forget to mention it’s also a collaborative work? Oren plays guitars, percussion, and keyboards, while important guest players provide strings, horns, piano, and percussion. On one of the most limpid cuts, ‘Passage’, there’s the splendid Eyvind Kang adding viola and piano to the mournful elegiac music. Kang is making good with his “spectral” compositions for Ideologic Organ just now. There’s also the delicate voice of Jessika Kenney on ‘Passage’, barely appearing, and moving through the track like an imperceptible breeze, barely leaving a stain on the tape. crys cole is doing something equally nuanced with his brushes and contact mics, while Oren builds his transparent layers of sound with guitars, Hammond organ and wineglasses (the glass harmonica I assume). After some six minutes of still waters running deep, ‘Passage’ segues into ‘Fractured Mirror’, the eight-minute epic that closes the album and represents another side of the pop and rock music loving Oren…for starters, it’s based on a tune by the Kiss lead guitarist, Ace Frehley 1. Oren plays virtually everything, apart from some acoustic guitar assist from Natasha Rose, and it’s a tightly-structured instrumental of minimal Krautrock, the guitar sound of Daniel Fichelscher set to an early 1980s drum machine click track, with a murmuring mellotron drone at the bottom. Of all the music here this is the one track that wants to try and rejoice, even in the face of great sadness; it’s a glorious bittersweet melange of emotion.

The album begins however, not on a triumphant note at all, but with the slow sadness of ‘Salt’, a lugubrious song with pained vocals supplied by Paul Duncan from Warm Ghosts, plus a small string section (violin by Elizabeth Welsh, James Rushford on viola and piano) creating a romantic swell that’ll make your heart burst with empathy. Against this, Oren adds his treated guitar to sound like the unobtrusive ambient piano of Brian Eno, and also etches in his tiny details of discordant notes that add just the right degree of ambiguity to this hymn of uncertainty. This is probably what Scott Walker die-hard fans imagine they are hearing on disastrous records like The Drift, but when it comes to creating disturbing easy-listening styled modern pop ballads, Oren shows us how it’s done, almost effortlessly.

The main event of the album though has to be ‘Knots’, and at 33 minutes this track could have made a credible vinyl release on its own terms. The lineup here includes Eyvind Kang again, plus the cellist Janei Leppin, Josiah Boothby on French Horn, the percussionist Joe Talia and the singer Stephen Fandrich, all accompanying Oren with his electric guitars, autoharp, and percussion. The recordings have been made at different times across the world – Australia, Seattle, London, Luz and Milan – and assembled in the studio with the help of Randall Dunn. What results is a tightly integrated and intense piece of micro-tonal groaning, as nebulous as a swarming galaxy. As with all of this album, “understatement” is certainly the keynote of the day, but there is exquisite detail and discipline woven into every strand of this “knotted” composition, and it’s not simply another self-indulgent drone-morass of the sort that blights contemporary music like Dutch elm disease. Without wishing to dive straight into the deep end of the “superlatives” swimming pool at Swiss Cottage, I’d have little problem aligning this ambitious and sustained piece of work alongside recent compositions by Reinhold Friedl or Yannis Kyriakides; though to give credit where it’s due, it seems that most of the arrangement work for this exceptional piece was executed by Eyvind Kang rather than Oren. The press notes highlight the subtle but very propulsive percussion work of Talia, indicating that ‘Knots’ also works as an update on the electric jazz of Miles Davis, the confidence and swagger of Miles’ music restated with all the qualifiers of 21st-century doubt and uncertainty. And besides all the spectral composition undercurrents, there’s a hint of doom metal in the menacing bass growls…a very accomplished record and one that will probably come to be regarded as a significant benchmark in Oren’s oeuvre.

In my book, Oren scores 500 points for even name-checking Kiss, but he goes one better and records a cover version of a song by one of the band’s naffest members!

Dusted (USA):

In my review of Audience of One, I pegged “Salt” as a track that had the potential to be my favorite song of the year. Six months later, I still find it to be the album’s undisputed highlight, and, if my extremely unscientific estimation is correct, the track I’ve listened to more than any other in 2012. One song does not a great album make, but there’s no question that the lead track here is setting the bar at a spot the others don’t reach. Audience of One, considered as a whole, isn’t Ambarchi’s strongest effort, and it’s decidedly not his Ambarchi-est. But it’s his most exciting music in years. The album’s variations on Ambarchi’s M.O. and the wholly unexpected turns it takes combine with some moving music to put Audience of One at the top of my pile halfway through 2012. [Adam Strohm]

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia):

Musique Machine (UK):

5/5 stars and album of the month

Oren Ambarchi’s ‘Audience of One’ is the first proper solo album the Australian experimental multi-instrumentalist has recorded for Touch since 2007’s ‘In the Pendulum’s Embrace’.

In the intervening years he has continued to ramp up his eclectic and seemingly ceaseless collaborative schedule with major players operating at the interstices of free jazz, industrial, electronic and avant metal including Mats Gustafsson, z’ev, Jim O’Rourke, Keiji Haino and, perhaps most famously, Sunn O))). With his background as an improv drummer and his unconventional use of guitar ‘n’ FX as a generator of seductively suspended tones, Ambarchi seems to effortlessly augment pretty much any configuration of players to collectively produce wildly original and captivating work. In comparison, his solo releases up to and including ‘In the Pendulum’s Embrace’ have largely focussed on studied, live processes that transmute his guitar tones into rivers of harmonics that elegantly combine and fall out of phase with one another to reveal meditative sonic phenomena not expected from the six stringed instrument. Whereas ‘Audience of One’, perhaps influenced more by his collaborations than previous solo outings, showcases many more sides to Ambarchi’s rich talents.

As if strategically pre-empting the extent of these deviations, Touch released a compilation two years’ ago, suitably titled ‘Intermission’, that hoovered up diverse tracks from last decade that retrospectively highlight new nuances in Ambarchi’s output. And perhaps the most surprising track on the compilation was ‘Iron Waves’, a remix of ‘Parasail’ by New Yorker Paul Duncan (of Warm Ghost), where Ambarchi’s billowing guitar and ritualistic bell-work are set beneath Duncan’s voice to form a deceptively simple yet emotional ballad, and ‘Audience of One’ opens with what could be described as its a sequel. Titled ‘Salt’, it is a touching, understated spiritual lamenting childhood memories of the taste of tears. Duncan’s multi-layered smoky vocals drift across Ambarchi’s sympathetically suspended guitar tones, each ignited by the briefest of pops before extending bass-heavy warmth and bright sonorous beams that caress then coalesce as they decay. Instead of a chorus, gently simmering strings emerge to form a soulful shoulder for Duncan to cry on.

After such a tender tale, nothing can prepare one for ‘Knots’, which, at over 30 minutes, takes the lion’s share of Audience of One’s hour. For the most part it comes on like some kind of gladiatorial fight between Ambarchi’s full arsenal of guitar tones and Joe Talia’s fierce and incessant percussion. For the first half they seem to be aggressively circling each other, Talia’s propulsive and frenetic tapping taunting Ambarchi into releasing animalistic groans and whines, egged on by a ceremonial French horn and arching strings arranged by Eyvind Kang. But by midway the circling has abated and the fight is truly on – low slung distorted power chords seethe and burn as drumming erupts and splashes in retaliation – until the guitars’ feedback forms a merciful rain that slowly and temporarily washes away the violence, lending a deceptive calm. But the last seven or so minutes are filled with what sounds like big, slow attacks on sheet metal, as if the artists are tearing up the performance space until it can no longer produce any sounds at all.

‘Passage’ follows to take us away from the destructive arena into a sharply contrasting serenity of interleaving small sounds – single sustained piano notes overlap small rustling movements patiently joined by the pure tones from Jessika Kenney’s exquisite voice, Ambarchi’s Hammond organ and a pleasantly whining wine glass – before Kang’s viola is bowed loosely and a guitar is casually plucked to suggest a song is coming.

And that song is a cover version of Ace Frehley’s instrumental rock anthem ‘Fractured Mirror’ that closed his first solo album back in 1978 while still a member of Kiss. Providing the last of ‘Audience of One’s many stylistic surprises, Ambarchi’s version is played straight, although resists the original’s power chords, to revel in its wholly melodic, repetitive properties largely spun by layers of brightly plucked acoustic and electric guitars.

‘Fractured Mirror’ provides a shiny, happy ending as the credits roll on a multi-faceted album that takes its listeners through all known emotions (and, quite possibly, some new undefined ones) where fiercely atonal avant garde manoeuvres are followed by wholly musical matter without losing the strong, coherent identity of a coolly confident composer at the height of his powers. Expertly played, mixed and sequenced, Audience of One is, quiet simply, an outstanding experience. [Russell Cuzner]

Headphone Commute (USA):

I polish off this Sound Bytes installment with a four track album by Oren Ambarchi, titled Audience Of One. The first five minute track, “Salt”, misleads me into thinking that this will be an album composed of (almost-pop) songs. Alas, the 33 minute colossus that follows proves me otherwise. The buzzing tones and dropping drones resemble the dying sighs of digital whales, moaning to the light cymbals, scratching strings and ritualistic vocal calls. The Australian multi-instrumentalist appears behind electric and acoustic guitars, driving forth the stagnating beast, the way he’s perfected when working with doom metal and dark ambient group, Sunn O))). No prisoners survive this onslaught, as the rolling thunder gains momentum in density and noise, while the drumming keeps up with the pace. When the gust passes, the album opens up like a flower that has survived the storm, with a beautiful “Passage”, contrasting and complimenting Ambarchi’s overall vision of minimalism, drone, and folk. With a wide array of contributing artists, such as Eyvind Kang, Jessika Kenney, Christ Townend and Joe Talia, Audience Of One is an album that could have only been released by Touch – a free falling trip into a lab of abstract frequencies and sound. As a four-part suite, this is a welcome return for Ambarchi to the label, having previously released In The Pendulum’s Embrace in 2007. Grab your copy from touchshop.org

Brainwashed (USA):

Between this and the recently released Imikuzushi live collaboration with Keiji Haino and Jim O’Rourke, Ambarchi's work is drifting more and more into the realm of "music" rather than his more abstract tendencies. While the collaboration is a full on psychedelic rock blast, Audience of One is a more restrained, structured affair that features, among other things, an Ace Frehely cover.

Ambarchi has never been one to overly engage in dissonant noise, but his work usually is tinged with an abstract quality. On opener "Salt," the musical bent on here becomes obvious. Ambarchi's guitar work is restrained, tightly clipped notes that are paired with Paul Duncan's heavily multitracked vocals. The piece goes from subtle restraint to more grandiose, sweeping strings that have bombast, but still a delicate sound to it.

"Passage" is cut from a similar cloth, with piano and ringing wine glasses filling wide open spaces. The delicate, beautiful strings (courtesy of Eyvind Kang) give the whole piece a distinct lightness, and more than a hint of the minimalist compositions of Terry Reily or Philip Glass.

The massive "Knots" makes up more than half of the album, clocking in over 33 minutes and it's also a dramatic, sweeping piece. It opens with subtle percussion and reigned in droning instruments, both of which flow together into a tense mixture that continues to build and build in volume and intensity. Horns and dissonant tones swell up to the forefront and then pull back, leaving the sparser moments to return.

As "Knots" goes on, French horns mimic battle cries before, about half-way through, the track just opens up into balls out noise rock, emphasizing Ambarchi's electric guitar and Joe Talia’s driving rhythms. Afterward, the piece falls apart into a fragmented, abstract soundscape that differs greatly from the disciplined, structured opening.

Finally, Audience of One ends on a cover of Ace Frehely's "Fractured Mirror," which is mostly a combination of intertwined acoustic and electric guitars atop a rudimentary vintage drum machine. While the credits state that Ambarchi provided vocals on the track, they're too buried and processed to be recognizable. It’s a surprising cover choice, but a majestic one that is both respectful to its source, while also taking the track in a unique direction.

Ambarchi's Audience of One manages to transform from sparse minimalism to a full on embrace of classic rock, which is a tall order in the span of less than an hour. Even though there seems to be dramatic shifts in style, the pieces all hang together very well, and the change in dynamics works nicely. The greater emphasis on conventional sound was surprising, but as good as it is, I can't complain.

prefix (USA):

This year's Audience of One, by Oren Ambarchi, is a strange bird indeed. Its four tracks encompass a 30-plus minute minimalist meditation and an Ace Frehley cover. However, what looks like disparate source material on paper doesn't sound disparate on record, as Ambarchi's vision stays consistent throughout. This is more of a consolidation of his previous work than a series of experiments. These four songs each work well on their own, but considered as a record, they inform one another in surprising ways. Of course Ambarchi is the centerpiece here, but numerous collaborators, including Sunn O)))'s Jessika Kenney and Eyvind Kang and Warm Ghost's Paul Duncan, add much-needed counterpoint to his stark, sparse guitar work. And not to get too obviously metaphorical here, but this can be read as a microcosm of Touch itself: An Australian collaborating with musicians from all over the world on tracks that shouldn't work together but do. This is the same ethos that brings traditional Egyptian music together with Japanese micro-minimalism on the same label without losing focus.

The Silent Ballet (USA):

8/10

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I get a strange sensation of being located in a very large area. It doesn't matter whether or not I'm actually located in a big, empty room (as opposed, say, to the cramped and overcrowded back of an airplane)—the feeling comes regardless. It's a strange sensation, something like wandering alone through a high school gym late at night. And although the extreme spatiality tends to beget a feeling a loneliness (and occasionally agoraphobia), there's also, paradoxically, an intense intimacy, as though all of this space were made just for me. It's an odd feeling, and I can never quite tell when it's going to arrive, but I always enjoy when it decides to visit.

I've been having this feeling a whole lot more since I began listening to Audience of One.

Oren Ambarchi, for those unfamiliar with his work, is an Australian ambient or drone musician famous for pushing the sound of a guitar to its very limits. He's a fairly prolific artist, with several collaborations (most famously, with Sunn O)))) to his name, as well as the requisite scattering of EPs and singles. But, it's been a while since his last full-length album, 2007's In the Pendulum's Embrace; previously, the longest gap between LPs was three years. Full-length albums seem to represent something special to Ambarchi: an opportunity to fully explore a certain element of sound, or—as is the case of the present record—a complete turning point for one's own sound. Although Ambarchi has been mostly known for his playing and processing of the guitar, the listener wouldn't know it from Audience of One. With the exception of the closing track (a delicious semi-American-Primitive cover of Ace Frehley's "Fractured Mirror"), this record treats the guitar as an ensemble instrument. Although this represents a fairly significant departure from Ambarchi's established sound, it's hard to complain when the results are this compelling.

Audience is laid out somewhat oddly. The album consists of four tracks, with the thirty-three minute "Knots" as the undeniable cynosure. While one might normally expect a track like this to either lead off or close out the record, "Knots" instead gets placed in the second position, making it both the metaphoric and the literal centerpiece of the album. Even more unusually, that opening slot is filled by Audience's one lyrical track, "Salt." Usually, if instrumental albums are going to have vocals at all, they come towards the end, to underline the intensity of a climax (e.g., Yndi Halda's "Dash and Blast," or, for that matter, the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony). Alternatively, they can provide a familiar grounding point after returning from instrumental craziness (as with A Silver Mt. Zion's "Movie (Never Made)"). But here Ambarchi opens with the vocals, which Warm Ghost's Paul Duncan sings in a sort of floating baritone. The effect is clear: we are entering a dreamworld, and we are leaving the cognitive realm far behind.

And, surely, that is what "Knots" provides. Now, it is quite often the case in instrumental music—and especially in the ambient and drone genres—that the "long song" of an album simply won't deliver enjoyment comparable with its exaggerated length. This is decidedly not the case with "Knots." The track is endlessly rewarding and never boring. In the course of reviewing Audience I've listened to it over a dozen times, and I'm still finding new elements and oppositions. As the track begins, light tapping on the high hats becomes threatened by ominous bass rumbling. But these drones never quite manage to overtake the percussion, and the notes eventually shift up into the mid-range. This sets the ground for what is to come over the next half-hour: an endless tug-of-war (and occasional wartime alliance) between various competing compositional elements. Percussion battles harmony, treble fights with bass, slow drones try to drown out the faster pulses, and the acoustic tones lock horns with their digital and electronic counterparts. The track begins slowly, but rest assured that this is only the calm before the storm. By the twelfth minute the drums begin to get a bit more adventurous, and then a single, mournful acoustic guitar note sounds out. By the sixteenth minute a veritable hellfire of digital manipulation is brewing, releasing waves of static and crinkly bass upon the suddenly frenetic percussion. Listening to "Knots" on headphones, with eyes closed, one gets the impression of being in a beautiful, vast field, which is soon to be overtaken by lava from an erupting volcano.

Of course, things calm down eventually—such a pace cannot be sustained forever—but Ambarchi denies us a happy, feel-good ending. With six minutes left to go, the track seems on pace for a slow, droning coda toward an eventual pianissimo conclusion. Then the crashes and explosions come in. Though still set over plodding, contemplative drones, this noise comes to dominate the last few minutes, as though Ambarchi had decided to let Burning Star Core write the finale of the song. Although I would never describe the rest of "Knots" as "easy-listening," these last minutes stand out for their unparalleled harshness. In fact, I'm still not sure that ending the track on such a dissonant note was the right move. It feels too sudden, like a betrayal of the calmness I feel I deserve after everything in the middle. Of course, this is almost surely Ambarchi's intention. Whether or not the listeners agree with Ambarchi's knife to the gut of their expectations, "Knots" stands as a powerful testament to Ambarchi's compositional prowess. It is almost surely the best thing that he's ever recorded, and one of the finest and most thought-provoking tracks that I have heard in some time. Simply put, this is intellectual music, with a fiercely emotional resonance.

The peace does eventually come, however. In fact, one wonders if it's almost too peaceful. The serene third track, "Passage," functions as a nice respite to the darkness of "Knots." But after all the noise of the previous track's ending, the softness of "Passage" makes the song almost unnoticeable. It becomes impossible to focus on "Passage," almost impossible even to hear "Passage"; one is certainly aware that music is playing, but it's difficult to characterize it as anything more than that. Of course, this speaks volumes about the power of "Knots," as "Passage" is a very nice track when played on its own, out of order. But it is a rather odd choice to give us something so subtle, something so quiet, after the half hour assault that Ambarchi has leveled against our eardrums. Within the context of the album, "Passage" feels like little more than the tinnitus-accompanied silence of the drive home after a fantastic concert.

Fortunately, the closer (the aforementioned "Fractured Mirror") picks up the pace a little bit, with a nice return to Ambarchi's guitar-heavy roots. Managing to be both active and introspective, Ambarchi's cover maintains the dreamy feel of the rest of the album, sounding something like a less-dense Alexander Turnquist. The song is very nearly the opposite of "Knots," but there is no doubting that both came from the same musician. And while all of the other choices of track order on Audience feel somewhat odd (though not necessarily incorrect), "Fractured Mirror" stands in exactly the right position. It is the perfect closer to a wholly remarkable album.

In the end, I am left to ponder the significance of the title of the album. There's an undeniable intimacy to this album; as a listener, I almost feel as though everything in it were made specifically for me, just like when I close my eyes and end up in that vast space by myself. But is this really the case? Am I the audience of this album, or is it rather Ambarchi? Perhaps I am mistaking the intimate for the personal. Really, this is Ambarchi's record, through and through. He's writing for himself; I just happen to be along for the ride. But listening to music this powerful, this affecting, one can't help but to make it her own. Audience of One may be Ambarchi's record, but listening to it is my experience. In that vast space I go to when I close my eyes, everything really has been made just for me. And when you listen to this album, I bet you'll find that everything has also been made just for you. Just close your eyes, and drift off to your own world—with Ambarchi generously providing the soundtrack. [Tom Butcher]

tinymixtapes (USA):

Let’s have done with this notion of ‘abstraction’ in music, shall we? Music. Is. Never. Abstract. It’s concrete, physical, irresistibly and incontrovertibly material. As Vladimir Jankélévitch put it in “Music and the Ineffable” more than 50 years ago, “It acts upon human beings, on their nervous systems and their vital processes… This power which poems and colors possess occasionally and indirectly — is in the case of music particularly immediate, drastic, and indiscreet.” And not just in relation to humans either. Music’s materiality extends to tables and windows and dogs and goldfish too. Admittedly, its material effects will be importantly different in each case. Presumably the table is largely indifferent to what Adam Harper would call its ‘non-sonic variables.’ But the fact remains: Music is never ‘abstract.’

I point all this out here because ‘abstract’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot where Oren Ambarchi is concerned. Here it is on the front page of his own website, in an endorsement from The Wire. Ambarchi’s work, apparently, 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.” The words “disembodied” and “stripped down” tend to crop up a lot too. As do references to water, air, the ether, and transcendence. It’s as if Ambarchi’s music were less there somehow than the work of other musicians, less concrete or present than Dylan or Kanye or James Ferraro or sunn 0))).

Well I call bullshit! There’s nothing ‘abstract’ about Ambarchi’s approach to the guitar at all. Exactly the opposite, in fact. As I’ve argued elsewhere on this website in relation to Colin Stetson’s saxophone work, the use of extended techniques evidences precisely an attention to the materiality of sound, the materiality of the instrument, not an abstraction or a distancing from it. Ambarchi’s guitar playing, in other words, is not dis-embodied. It’s an exercise in re-embodiment: an attempt to see, hear, and feel the guitar otherwise, to make it move us in new and different ways.

Take “Knots,” for instance, the epic 33-minute centerpiece of Ambarchi’s latest release, Audience of One. It’s an extraordinary track. And it’s extraordinary, moreover, precisely in its materiality. It comes on like a storm: momentum, pressure, volume, and force all gathering, all push, push, pushing at you: irrepressible. Played on the right sound system, at the right volume, in the right space, the tones throb and surge through you, swell suddenly, and then recede again, only to come on yet more forcefully next time. And then the enormous apex: roaaaring, ear-splitting, pounding, Pounding, a Colossal Squall! Toward the end particularly, high pitches and thunderous crashes intervene right at the threshold of pain.

The liner notes tell us that this tempest has been rustled up by means of acoustic and electric guitars, autoharp, percussion, viola, igil, cello, voice, french horn, and ‘spring’(!), but it’s precisely an in-ability to fix so many sounds here conclusively to a source (all except that relentless tap-tapping of the cymbal, that is) that strikes the listener most. And this is not experienced as a process of abstraction, but as a resolution of diverse instrumentality into sheer sonic force.

What is being ‘expressed’ here? Nothing… or nothing in particular anyway. For Nietzsche, writes Jankélévitch, “music does not express sadness-in-general, or joy-in-general but rather indeterminate Emotion, the pure emotional force of the soul: music exalts the faculty of feeling… music awakens in us affect per se, affect that is unspecified and unmotivated.” This is what “Knots” does. Above all, Ambarchi renders us as vibrant matter: Affected, Stirred, Moved.

Next to “Knots,” the rest of the record feels like a sort of necessary supplement. The quiet before and after the storm, it prepares and relieves us. The first track, “Salt,” with vocals from Paul Duncan of Warm Ghost and trademark glitch from Ambarchi underneath, is a little insipid, a little saccharine for me. And final track “Fractured Mirrors” is an artful cover of an original by Ace Frehley of Kiss. An attempt by Ambarchi, perhaps, to place himself in relation to the trad-rock guitar tradition? Maybe. But next to the material force of “Knots,” such speculation feels a little incidental somehow… peripheral… immaterial… even abstract. [James Parker]

Other Music (USA):

Easily one of Oren Ambarchi's best works to date, Audience of One is an amazing four-track suite of songs that succinctly binds many of his disparate modes of production into a satisfying whole. At turns expansive and intimate, the album opens with a shimmering, long sigh of a pop song that seems to harken back to his much underrated singer-songwriter project from the early 00s, Sun, before launching into an epic, loping thirty-minute-plus track of shifting tones, low-end feedback, and clicking percussion. The following two songs delve into moments of crystalline minimalism and cyclical guitar patterns augmented by lovely, hushed vocals.

Pitchfork (USA):

It's a strange kind of fate that has caused Australian multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi to spend most of his career making records that demonstrated his singular guitar sound, only to gain greater notice for an album that barely shows it off at all. But that's the way Audience of One, released by his longtime label Touch, is panning out. Ambarchi is also known for his collaborative work with Sunn O))), with whom he's recorded and played live, complementing his extensive solo releases and further alliances with musicians including Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke, and Christian Fennesz. Other guests emerge on Audience of One's four pieces. Among them are impressive contributions from Warm Ghost's Paul Duncan, providing vocals on the opening "Salt"; and Eyvind Kang, filling out a chamber arrangement on the expansive "Knots".

There's a sense of new life forming, of Ambarchi's re-contextualizing his place in the world. His music has taken in vast stylistic shifts in the past, but here he forges deeper into the unknown, loosening control over his work to allow his collaborators to leave a more indelible footprint and pushing many of the shapes he forms into a tighter framework. Those shapes on the opening "Salt" mirror the glass-like ambience of Markus Popp's Oval, sifting a stilled beauty into the track as Duncan's keening vocal echoes softly over them. When a hushed swell of strings momentarily enters the frame it scrapes close to the kind of work Jason Pierce was experimenting with circa Pure Phase, where a chilly tone-drift provides a simple backdrop for raw, unhampered emotion.

That may be a surprising comparison for longstanding fans of Ambarchi's work, but on Audience of One he's clearly happy to buck a few expectations. On the 33-minute centerpiece "Knots", there's a greater widening of his vision, bringing in the pitter-patter of drummer Joe Talia's metronomic ride-cymbal playing, initially counterbalanced by shards of abstract noise, ranging from barely extant slivers of sound to a blackened, all-encompassing bedlam. It's strung up in an unusual space, full of gaps for the musicians to move around in but also striding forward with purpose and goal, ricocheting back and forth between the known and the unknown. It's reminiscent of Thomas Fehlmann's work with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra on "DFM", where all the players are intuitively aware of how to expand into spaces without overwhelming the track's fragile fabric.

"Knots" is intricate and fascinating, the kind of piece that's impossible to digest in one or two hearings, always holding back secrets to reveal on further plays. There's a lightness and a density to it, with Ambarchi's black-hole soloing at the midway point falling back into near-quiet in the final third before a series of forceful, metallic clangs push and pull it to a barbed close. The only way out after that is to return to the buttoned-up euphoria of what came before, with singer Jessika Kenney cooing over "Passage" while Ambarchi caresses out ambient noise by kneading the rims of a series of wine glasses. It's a necessary climb-down from "Knots", an escape hatch that stops the mind from reeling on what came before.

To complete the picture, and to continue the strain of reinvention that runs throughout Audience of One, the album closes with a cover of Ace Frehley's "Fractured Mirror". It's a marginal lift in tone after "Passage", with the plush march of a drum machine providing a steady pulse for glass-cut guitar playing to echo around. In 2004, Pitchfork's Brandon Stosuy reviewed Ambarchi's Grapes from the Estate, wondering what the guitarist could do with Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher". "Fractured Mirror" may be the closest we get to an answer, with the overabundant guitar playing of Frehley's version sucked out and replaced with a downplayed beauty that's just about perceptible if you listen closely to the original. But that's typical of Ambarchi's approach on Audience of One, which feels like he's listening harder than ever to feel out new ways to move forward, causing him to quietly cleanse his vision in ever more compelling ways. [Nick Neyland]

The New York Times (USA):

The Australian guitarist and drummer Oren Ambarchi is after transcendence and gets there via two impulses that aren’t as mutually exclusive as they seem: free improvisation and playing within tight conceptual frames in service of a single idea. He finds a way to make one impulse fit inside the other. He’s into recklessness and symmetry.

Mr. Ambarchi, in his early 40s, is a compound musician down to the core, shaped by his travels through improvised and extreme music scenes in Sydney, Melbourne, Vienna, Tokyo, New York and other places; through minimalism, noise, rock, free jazz, doom, electro-acoustic improvisation. And “Audience of One,” recorded in sessions around the world, assumes that listeners won’t be turned off by changes of disposition among and inside its four tracks. He doesn’t mind breaking his own spell.

The first piece, “Salt,” sounds like beatless, ambient art-pop; Paul Duncan, from the Brooklyn band Warm Ghost, sings interior lyrics about gravity and memory in a baritone. But in the middle the key, form and sound change: the morose vocals drop out, and a string group arranged by Eyvind Kang produces gorgeous, consonant, deep-echo long tones over piano notes played so lightly that they seem half-erased.

The centerpiece of the record is “Knots,” which lasts for more than half an hour. It reassures the listener with a few constants: a brisk, quiet, ride-cymbal groove, played by the drummer Joe Talia, and a single note — an A — relayed through the piece by different instruments. But the constants keep evolving. After 10 minutes the cymbal rhythms start to grow more aggressive, and a welter of different sounds slither around the note, from cello, autoharp, French horn, electric guitar. One sound disappears, overlapped by the next, all of them constantly moving. It’s like an aural shell game.

They’re placid sounds, but right in the middle of the track — and also the middle of the album — Mr. Ambarchi, playing electric guitar, breaks the pattern, soloing expressively for five minutes with deep, low-frequency distortion. A horn arrangement appears, playing a series of notes too slow to be described as a melody. Toward the end the A takes a distant background as an intermittent hum, a bit of pure digital voltage. The piece tails off into vocals and reverbed dead-guitar-string sounds: wiping, splashing, flaying noises. The piece moves slowly enough for you to grasp its complete form in real time; it is dark and serene and complete, with a sense of proportion and risk, and one of the tracks of the year so far.

After the midpoint aggression, the record cools out again. Mr. Kang returns, with the singer Jessika Kenney, for “Passage,” held together by the constant throb of a Hammond organ chord and whistle of rubbed wineglasses. And that segues into the last track, “Fractured Mirror,” a cover of the acoustic-guitar instrumental that was the last track of the 1978 solo album by Ace Frehley, of Kiss. The original was contemplative; this is more so. It repeats a consonant fingerpicked pattern for nearly twice as long, into the horizon. [Ben Ratcliff]

The Outer Church (blog):

When someone tweeted earlier today that Oren Ambarchi had covered Ace Frehley's instrumental 'Fractured Mirror' - the closing track from his magnificent 1978 debut solo album - I had to investigate. I'm happy to confirm that Ambarchi's version is every bit as good as I'd hoped, retaining the bittersweet beauty of the original while making a case for its validity as work of non-canonical minimalism. 'Fractured Mirror' is a special track for me, for reasons I find very interesting and rather unusual. Thing is, the track reminds me of a very specific time in my life - in fact a very specific moment. So far, so nostalgic. But what I find curious is that at that particular point in time, I had not heard this piece of music. It took about a decade for me to discover that Frehley had recorded a composition that reached forward in time to that moment, distilled its essence with pinpoint accuracy, then lay in wait for me to stumble across it and find myself involuntarily transported back to that moment. Suffice to say, this raises some interesting questions concerning the less-than-straightforward relationship between music and nostalgia.

VITAL (Netherlands):

Its been a while since I last heard something new by Oren Ambarchi, which may be entirely my problem of not noticing, or perhaps Ambarchi's output was slowing down. Whatever the case, its good to hear something new from him and its surely quite a surprise, or two. One surprise might be obvious, the presence of singing, which is not entirely new in the world of Ambarchi, but then is in his Sun band, but here on Salt we have the voice of Paul Duncan. Another surprise, perhaps a bit hidden, is the presence of a cover of Kiss' Ace Frehley. But perhaps the biggest surprise is the omnipresence of many different collaborators, which, apart from Duncan, includes Elisabeth Welsh, James Rushford, Eyvind Kang, Janel Leppin, Stephen Fandrich, Josiah Boothby, Joe Talia, Crys Cole, Kessica Kenney and Natasha Rose. Many of them contribute violin, viola, cello, but also percussion, piano and voice. Its not a record to be compared with his previous solo records easily. Mainly due to the fact that the sound not always evolves around Ambarchi's guitar playing, slow, peaceful, heavy with low tones and minimal. This new album is much varied opening many new doors for Ambarchi. The simple ticking of rhythm machine, wine glasses, voice and acoustic guitars on the Frehley cover, but that's at the end of the CD. It opens with the Duncan sung 'Salt', which is perhaps the closest link to the old Ambarchi sound, but already extended with voice, violin and piano. A slow dramatic song. 'Knots', with thirty-three minutes easily the tour de force of the album, accelerates slowly into a heavy free rock improvisation, full on distortion and Talia banging the drums heavily, but with rather majestical heavy ending. More psychedelic music than guitar ambience for sure. Ambient is surely present on 'Passage', with all sorts of instrumental passages, but strangely enough, perhaps, the signature guitar of Ambarchi seems absent here, moving gently into the aforementioned Frehley cover. A CD full of surprises, lots of different textures, yet absolutely very coherent. Great return! Excellent work. [FdW]

Kindamuzik (Netherlands):

Zero Inch (UK):

Experimental guitarist Oren Ambarchi matches the intimacy hinted at in the album's title with two songs, the fragile 'Salt' and the more Emeralds-like 'Fractured Mirror', which frame the two remaining, more drone-like tracks of 'Audience of One'. Lovely.

rest + noise (blog):

It’s hard for me not to call Oren Ambarchi something close to an icon, a name I can rely on to put forth consistently engaging and abstracted versions of music. What I cannot rely on is consistency of style, approach, and sound – each release that holds Ambarchi’s name is singular and distinct in his discography. Cavernous noise, stately minimalism, and straight line pop music all litter his past, but now they appear on one album, ‘Audience Of One.’

It begins with a perfect, refined gem: ‘Salt’ is a masterpiece of restraint that is more song than experimentation. Paul Duncan provides vocals that, while expertly layered and cloaked in reverb, are among the most naked and affecting statements you’ll hear all year. His melancholic words drape over the slow swells of violin and viola to form a minimalist statement that is both sonically and emotionally rich. True to form, what follows is completely different, particularly ‘Knots,’ the following track. A half-hour exercise in loose, dynamic soundscapes, ‘Knots’ features a mid-section of free-rock ecstasy as Ambarchi’s electric guitars bristle with gnarled feedback and distortion. It’s a stark contrast with the remainder of the album, but it’s also what makes Ambarchi a perennial favorite.

France Musique (France):

"Dans le cercle nébuleux des compositeurs et improvisateurs de musiques expérimentales ardues, il en est qui, en parallèle, travaillent avec d'autres musiciens sur des registres plus populaires. Parmi eux Oren Ambarchi, un musicien d'origine irakienne installé aujourd'hui en Australie. Ses collaborations avec John Zorn, Christian Fennesz, Keith Rowe et le groupe de doom métal Sunn o))) lui ont permises de sortir de l'ombre des cultures underground. Son nouvel album vient de sortir au catalogue du label Touch, il est, à mon avis tout à fait superbe, Oren Ambarchi compose et improvise dans un style jamais facile mais avec un sens d'une esthétique sonore toujours très subtil. Quatre titres sont disponibles sur cette nouveauté, le premier peut surprendre, il démarre sur des sonorités très ambiant dans un style un peu à la Brian Eno puis on peu y entendre la voix nonchalante et mélancolique de Paul Duncan sur un thème très mélodieux. Le second titre est une longue pièce de plus de trente minutes dans un style expérimental électronique, une pièce qui s'échauffe et monte lentement en puissance avec des accents de jazz ou de rock cacophonique avant de d'atterrir par paliers successifs sur des territoires de musiques ambiant régulièrement déchirées par de puissants télescopage sonores. Les deux derniers titres qui clôturent cet album sont aussi surprenants pour qui connaît la discographie de ce musicien sans concession, on y entend des voix, des mélodies, des arpèges de guitare, rien de bien commercial bien sûr mais une musique qui prend des risques en surfant sur les genres. A découvrir!" [Eric Serva]

Titel (Germany):

Dusted (USA):

Oren Ambarchi hasn’t released a solo album since 2007, so it’s been a little while since we’ve had the chance to hear what the he’s been up to. Even still, Audience of One’s Ace Frehley cover is a surprise, and it’s one of many found on the album. Ambarchi’s releases for Touch have largely focused on his signature style of playing and processing the guitar; on Audience of One the typically Ambarchi-esque often takes a backseat in the mix, if it’s present at all. The album builds on an evolution of tendencies and techniques that tracks through Ambarchi’s earlier work, though it’s easily a bigger leap than he’s taken before. In the same vein, Ambarchi has frequently collaborated with others, but he’s never featured them so prominently on an album with only his name on its spine. From its start, Audience of One diverges starkly from the expected; by its end, the sense of surprise is replaced by that of satisfaction.

Ambarchi has flirted with conventional songcraft in the past. “Remedios the Beauty,” from 2004’s Grapes From the Estate, represented Ambarchi’s most accessible music, and “The Trailing Moss In the Mystic Glow,” which closed 2007’s In the Pedulum’s Embrace, moodily dances on the brink of coalescing into something more straightforward. None of this prepared, me, however, for Audience of One’s first track, an early contender for my favorite song of the year. Ambarchi’s usual bell-like tones and digital clicks open “Salt,” but it’s not long before Paul Duncan’s multi-tracked vocals come to the fore and it turns into a haunting, elegiac ballad. “Salt” is a song of spare beauty, even when the strings and piano rise to meet Ambarchi’s guitar, a disarming beginning to an album that doesn’t get any easier to predict as it progresses.

Just as Ambarchi surrenders the spotlight to Duncan on “Salt,” he happily works in the shadow of others on the follower, “Knots.” The 33-minute epic, replete with an arrangement for strings and horns by Eyvind Kang, builds slowly, its many voices drifting past like flotsam in a shallow pool. What begins as a hazy, somber canvas of steady drones and gentle fades grows in intensity, its tone of thorny unease escalating methodically into a climax of distortion and scattered percussion before a dark trip down the hill’s other side. The pianissimo cymbal play of Joe Talia is the string that runs through “Knots,” bowing out only after the track enters its final third. Ambarchi has often exhibited a keen sense of how to build from silence to storm, how to move from peace to pandemonium and back again. “Knots” takes these same tricks and performs them in a different guise.

Audience of One pulls so much of the focus from Ambarchi’s trusty old Washburn that it has the potential to be divisive amongst Ambarchi’s existent admirers. In its transposition of Ambarchi’s usual ideas and approaches into different environs, however, the album also has the potential to encourage attention from a wider-reaching audience, similar to the way that the deep, window-rattling tones of In the Pedulum’s Embrace made an obvious entry point for fans of Southern Lord and Ambarchi collaborators Sunn 0))). A track like “Passage” feels like a translation of Ambarchi’s older work into a new form, with piano, voice and acoustic guitar playing the parts that, in the past, might have all been handled by Ambarchi’s electric guitar.

There’s no real precedent for “Fractured Mirror,” though. Ambarchi’s version of the arpeggio-heavy 1978 Ace Frehley instrumental is an anachronism within his larger oeuvre, but even after I realized that he hadn’t penned the track, it didn’t feel out of line with the tone Ambarchi had previously cultivated. On a disc already marked by many deviations from Ambarchi’s norm, this unexpected appearance is far less jarring than it would have been appended to Suspension back in 2001. If you’ll forgive the possible over-analysis, I’ll posit that Audience of One’s title may provide a clue regarding the inclusion of the Frehley cover. The lyrics of “Salt,” redolent with reference to memory and a sense of yearning, and the faithful revision of a song penned and performed by the guitarist from Kiss, inspire a sense that I can’t shake, that Audience of One is, in part, a musical memoir, a more direct and self-referential statement than we’ve previously heard from Ambarchi. This disc is sure to rustle the feathers of some fans, but those who can adjust are treated to music that’s both the most inward-looking and expansive of the Australian’s career. [Adam Strohm]

goddeau.com (Belgium):

Het Britse label Touch heeft er dertig jaar op zitten. Het parcours van het Britse experimentele huis van vertrouwen verliep doorheen die decennia nogal grillig. Experimenteren is immers altijd dansen op een slap koord: wat gisteren avantgarde was, is vandaag al weer achterhaald. Releases van Touch ontlokten ons soms een geeuw, soms extatische vreugdekreten. Gelukkig zijn er Christian Fennesz en Oren Ambarchi, twee sterkhouders van het label. Ambarchi heeft net een nieuwe uit. Van Fennesz wordt dit jaar nieuw werk verwacht.

De Australische gitarist Oren Ambarchi is de ongekroonde keizer van de suspended guitar notes. Zijn techniek bestaat erin om gitaarklanken, die nauwelijks beroerd worden, via allerlei effectpedalen eindeloos te laten nazinderen. Dat creëert een bijzonder dromerig en etherisch gevoel voor de luisteraar, alsof de gitaarnoten versmelten met hete luchtspiegelingen. Het onvolprezen Suspension uit 2001 is na 10 jaar nog altijd een meesterwerk, waarmee Ambarchi zelfs een nieuw genre schiep. De timide Ambarchi werkte met iedereen in het experimentele veld. Van gitaarambient tot pure noise met zijn band Sun.

Zijn nieuwste op Touch Audience Of One is een ander beest. Audience of one? Ja. We zagen de verlegen Aussie ooit met een vertraging van 2 uur optreden in Kortrijk voor slechts een handvol liefhebbers. Maar Ambarchi speelt op dit album niet alleen. Op de vier tracks wordt zijn kenmerkende gitaarspel mooi aangevuld door een pak goed experimenteel volk als Paul Duncan, avantgarde violist Eyvind Kang, Joe Talia, Crys Cole, Jessica Kenney. Hun namen klinken misschien niet veel mensen bekend in de oren, maar het zijn vaste waarden in het experiment.

Salt wordt gezongen door Paul Duncan van Warm Ghost, een Australisch gothic gezelschap dat zeker meer aandacht verdient dan het krijgt. Knots is een ander paar mouwen, een freakout free improv tripvan 33 minuten, die herinnert aan de Nieuw Zeelandse improvisatie van de jaren '90 en doet denken aan grote marineschepen, die met veel oproer en rumoer de haven van Auckland binnenvaren. De grootste verrassing wordt echter gehouden voor het laatst. Fractured Mirror is een nummer van Ace Frehley van Kiss godbetert, dat door Ambarchi smaakvol en stijlvol onder handen genomen wordt. Audience Of One is zo een album dat uit verschillende vaatjes tapt. Underground superster Ambarchi houdt het boeiend. Het jaar begon pas en hier ligt al een meesterwerk. [Peter Wullen]

Sonic Seducer (Germany):

Rock-A-Rolla (UK):

De:bug (Germany):

Cyclic Defrost (Australia):

I must admit to have been slightly bemused by the work of Oren Ambarchi to date, having made many attempts to appreciate his output and consistently wondered what the fuss was about. That is to say until Audience of One. Opening track ‘Salt‘ bridges a number of musical worlds at once, it is a form of a traditional poetic song, in a sense it is romantic and nostalgic without recourse to saccharine, so it sits with an opening towards the popular world. It also is wrought within the form of minimal ambient art track with a ear for experimental sound palate. It is the width of the opening that is brought to bear with the composition that allows a wide audience to appreciate the work. The sound of the recording holds a clarity and subtlety that demonstrates the prowess in the recording and mixing by Ambarchi and Byron Scullin and the mastering of Frank Tetaz.

The second track, ‘Knots’, of this four track album, washes away the expectation of a vocal experimental album as it lays deep into electronic sound art and features the brooding undercurrent drumming of Joe Talia. It is a long track at 33.23, pulling out sonic shards and tones, elevating humms and cutting back to the ever present menace of the drums, lying in wait to never explode, even in the frenetic center of the track. Much could be said of the pretensions of Boothby’s French Horn in this track desiring to be a train horn from some long lost diesel but I shall leave such florid imaginings to your good selves. ‘Passage’ cuts back the pace to a distinctly minimal affair of minimal piano, wine glasses, contact microphones, brushes, hammond organ and guitar. The other notable song on the album is Ambarchi’s instrumental cover of Ace Frehley’s ‘Fractured Mirror‘ from his 1978 solo album. It is a magnificent rendition more in the order of Robert Fripp meets the Kiss musicians composition for the attention to technique that Ambarchi and Natasha Rose convey on the guitar. It even has a restrained groove extended with the combination of bass and Mellotron but portends to no dancefloor meanderings and stays clearly within the serious listening arena. [Innerversitysound]

Cerebral Decanting (blog):

Previous experiments by this Sydney, Australia-hailing Iraqi Sephardic Jewish guitarist have trended more, well, experimental, from onstage performances with Fred Frith and Ikue Mori to studio collaborations with Martin Ng and Jim O’Rourke. And while there’s little doubting his honest commitment to extreme music, the four generously approachable performances here do seem a step back from no-quarter noise and/or microtonality, in a sense serving as individuated samples of the more welcoming strands of contemporary avant-garde. Two meditative numbers rest between expansive pieces, with opener “Salt” drifting by on Paul Duncan’s weary vocals, and the lovely “Passage” setting piano, wordless voice, and wine glass harmonics over gently rising guitar. Album centerpiece and cosmic jazz epic “Knots” continues for 33 uninterrupted minutes, a drone blissout propelled by Joe Talia’s skittering cymbals and eventual full drum kit, building in circular and understated fashion towards fuzzed-out guitar frenzy only to fade out amid the popping of amplified string plonk - Popol Vuh at its most maximal and least new age, which is to say, Popol Vuh as it might have been. And Ambarchi goes out on a loving and serious cover of Ace Frehley’s “Fractured Mirror,” arranged for cascading acoustic twelve-string and soft electronic percussion, both bereft of irony and worthy of Steve Reich, quietly yet forcefully inserting classic rock grandeur into the academy. Hard to think of another post rock experiment achieving its goals so organically. [Jason Grubbels]

GP (Sweden):

AAJ (Italy):

Sound of Music (Sweden):

Hade Oren Ambarchi valt något annat skivbolag hade han framstått som ett under av sammanhållen känsla och minimalistiskt uttryck. Men nu finns han på Touch, som normalt ger ut fieldrecordings och extremt minimala ljudexperiment. Så istället känns Audience Of One som ett konfettiregn av olika känslor. Så är det nog också australiensarens mest varierade album, vilket samtidigt är dess styrka.

Inledande ”Salt” har hämtat mycket från en singer songwriter som exempelvis David Sylvian eller Nick Drake. Det är lågmält, romantiskt och stämningsfullt. Över halvtimmen långa ”Knots” är mer introvert, men samtidigt är detta definitivt skivans höjdpunkt. Ambarchis gitarrspel blandas med morsesignal, knäppande och fräsande elektronik och mot slutet toppas allt av fräna mikroskopiska attacker mot gitarrens strängar. ”Passage” är mer av ett snapshot: ett trevande piano mot en avlägsen steel guitar: som Paris, Texas-soundtracket, bara lite mer utfrätt. Avslutande Ace Frehley-covern ”Fractured Mirror” är – trots lökig trummaskin – fin. Men det beror mer på att den håller sig nära det underskattade originalet, än att den gör så mycket med det. [Mats Almegård]

RNE3 (Italy)

Un disco esperadísimo, en mi opinión. Y es que ver la trayectoria de Oren Ambarchi es increíble. Sus inicios se centran como batería de un grupo de free jazz, en su patria por adopción, Australia. Después su llegada al mundo de la música electrónica como colaborador "supremo" con gente como los Sunn O))), Keiji Haino y Jim O'Rourke, o hasta su estatus de héroe local para gente como Lou Reed, quien lo descubrió y quedó fascinado con su música y lo llevó de gira junto al Metal Machine Trio recientemente.

La carrera de Ambarchi toma giros inesperados, con colaboraciones y turnos tomados entre la guitarra, la laptop y la batería. Ambarchi se ha vuelto uno de esos guitarristas "de la nueva era" como lo han sido Fennesz, Peter Rehberg, Kevin Drumm o Frost, que buscan nuevos contextos para la guitarra, que no se conforman con los límites que les dicta el instrumento.
Ambarchi entrega un magnífico disco, "Audience Of One", en el que Ambarchi da un giro radical, dejando a un lado su música solista, para integrar nuevos elementos a la mezcla, algo no tan ajeno, si tomamos en cuenta la afinidad de Amabrchi por las colaboraciones, pero esta vez, esto se traduce en un disco suyo.

Hemos elegido para "investigar" este disco este tema: "Knots", que se inicia con con unas percusiones híper activas, tonos bajos que comienzan a arroparlas, los clásicos estallidos de ultra bajas frecuencias de Amabrchi, la incursión de poderosos drones y después, violentas manifestaciones de distorsión, en una poderosa combinación, rara, muy rara vez vista en un disco de Ambarchi, para cerrar con un poderoso clímax noise freak out. [Disfrutadlo]

whisperinandhollerin.com (UK):

For ‘Audience of One’, Oren Ambarchi has enlisted a number of highly respected collaborators, including Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney to perform four immense pieces that are complex, challenging, and above all, extremely varied.

In contrast to the soft whispy fabric of the gently woven opener, ‘Knots’ is a thorny entanglement of sound that’s massive in every sense: sprawling over a time of over thirty-three minutes, its quiet, rumbling beginnings metamorphosise into a deep, rolling drone over which crazed harmonics and heavily processed distorted guitar run sonic riot. The percussion is buried in the drift, clanking away submerged under a tsunami of cacophonous sound. It’s an immense track, and worth seeing out ‘Audience of One’ for on its own.

The final diptych of ‘Passage’ and ‘Fractured Mirror’ with a combined running time of a quarter of an hour takes a rather different trajectory, being altogether more gentle, and magnificently accomplished pieces, rich in texture and tone.

Radio Student (Slovakia):

Z novo ploščo se zvezdnik "eksperimentalnih muzik" izvrstno znajde v bolj klasični vlogi pisca pesmi, tokrat razpetih med subtilnim minimalizmom in formo free-rocka... * v celoti
Ko je mojster dronanja, Oren Ambarchi, lani gostoval v Kinu Šiška, je v intervjuju za Radio Študent med drugim zaupal, da se ves čas sprašuje o tem, kar počne. Kot da bi se med zvezdniki sodobnih avantgardnih muzik znašel prej po nekem srečnem naključju in ne zavoljo izjemne glasbene pronicljivosti, ki jo že dvajset let gradi tako na koncertih kot v studiu. Da se v zadnjem času pogosto sprašuje o svojem ustvarjanju znotraj avantgardne scene, je ob nedavnem postanku v Ljubljani hudomušno potrdil tudi mojster minimalističnega techna Thomas Brinkmann, ki je z Avstralcem prav v teh dneh objavil skupen album. Menda ga je Ambarchi - malo zares in malo za šalo - nagovarjal, naj ga vendarle vsaj za trenutek oddalji od resnih muzik. Brinkmannu izkušenj z lahkotnejšimi vsebinami seveda ne manjka, nenazadnje je pred štirimi leti posnel album 'When horses die ...', ki ga je vsaj deloma postavil v okvir klasičnega pisanja pesmi. In na nek način je plošča 'Audience of one' za Ambarchija to, kar je bil za Brinkmanna album 'When horses die...'.

Da gre za Ambarchijevo malce drugačno avanturo od tistih, ki smo jih od njega vajeni sicer, razkrije že pogled na njegove tokratne sodelavce. Med njimi sta denimo pevka Jessika Kenney, znana po sodelovanjih z nekaterimi dronerskimi metal bendi, pa pevec in multiinstrumentalist Paul Duncan iz ameriške indie-folk-rock-pop zasedbe Warm Ghost. Godalni aranžmaji so večinoma delo ameriškega eklektičnega skladatelja in violinista Eyvinda Kanga. Zadnji kos v štiridelni suiti, kot so album opredelili pri založbi Touch, pa je celo priredba skladbe 'Fractured Mirror', ki jo je napisal Ace Frehly, sicer kitarist hard-rockovskih zvezdniških ekscentrikov Kiss. No, pisana zasedba je resda znak, da je Ambarchi tokrat imel namen ustvariti nekoliko drugačen album, kljub temu pa v glasbi ostaja njegov prepoznaven pečat. Naj si bo to kitarsko dronanje, hipnotično potrkavanje, ali pa subtilno grajenje intenzivnosti in atmosfere.

Plošča 'Audience of One' poveže raznotere izraznosti. Na njej med drugim najdemo sledi melanholičnega popa, sodobne klasične in cinematične glasbe, folka, svobodnjaškega rocka in seveda prepoznavnega drona. Toda te eklektične vsebine Ambarchi spretno vpne v podobo, ki morda še najbolj spominja na sodobno (klasično) komponirano glasbo. Čeprav so sorodne muzike v zadnjih letih vse prej kot redkost, pa le redki ustvarjalci z njimi dosežejo globino plošče 'Audience of one'. Pojavi se vtis, da je Ambarchi vanjo mojstrsko strnil vse dolgoletne glasbene izkušnje in povil doslej svoj najbolj intimen album. Album, ki poslušalca za slabo uro odzemlji v prostor izjemne glasbene izkušnje, svet neštetih zvočnih nians, svet Orena Ambarchija.

Nobena skrivnost ni, da imajo Avstralci bržkone eno najmočnejših scen v polju avanturističnih sodobnih muzik. Ambarchijevo plastenje zvoka in subtilno poglabljanje atmosfere bi denimo lahko primerjali s početjem njegovih kolegov The Necks, medtem ko podobne, hkrati nervozne in hipnotične godalne aranžmaje zlahka zasledimo tudi v ustvarjanju filmske glasbe dvojca Cave/Ellis. Da, zdi se, da čas že dolgo ni bil bolj primeren za novo, močno avstralsko superzasedbo.

Blow Up (Italy):

Dalston Sound (UK):

It would take a prodigiously expansive album to encapsulate a summary of the work of Oren Ambarchi, but the Australian guitarist and percussionist has achieved the next best thing in the four compositions on this, his fifth album for Touch. It continues his embrace of more melodic forms on his last album, In The Pendulum’s Embrace, and sounds as breezy as the Brian Wilson-influenced pop music he creates as Sun with Chris Townend, but also finds expansive new contexts for the textural and experimental work of many of his earlier releases. In many ways, it’s an album that adapts the template of collaborative growth that Ambarchi’s associates Sunn O))) have adopted with such success, and applies it to his own aesthetic.

Where this album marks a real departure is in its collaborative nature: Ambarchi’s previous works have primarily been solo, or at least works on which Ambarchi’s guitar playing formed the dominant characteristic. Audience of One is unified by the sensibility developed over that cycle of recordings, but embraces the contributions of judiciously selected collaborators. One track here is a co-written song, while another is an instrumental cover version of a song.

Opening track “Salt” is built around a bright radiant pulse, cushioned by piano and strings, within which nestles a dream-like song, on which co-composer Paul Duncan’s multi-tracked vocals evoke pure nostalgic reverie for some long-past other, and the memory of “salt, the way it tasted as a child”.

Since first contributing to, and then touring behind their ‘Black One’ album of 2005, Ambarchi has become an integral part of the extended Sunn 0))) family (he’s in the Gravetemple splinter group, alongside Attila Csihar and Stephen O’Malley). Sunn 0))) fans will gravitate to the 33 minutes of “Knots”, which builds to a violent, multi-layered surge of stressed guitar and electric amplifier drone on a current of kit drum polyrhythm and insistent cymbal patter.

We reach the plateau of “Knots” via a richly textured electronic wash punctuated by plosive electrical detonations, from which acoustic sounds and field recordings emerge in a shifting drone-drift. From its peak the track slowly breaks down into a wracked soundscape; the barbed detonations of a struck spring and other, unidentifiable portentous rumbles; a wracked sea of turbid electronic residue. A string arrangement by fellow Sunn acolyte Eyvind Kang and a part for French horn hold all these elements together, but the spine and animating presence of the piece is Joe Talia’s percussion.

The next two tracks form a suite, with the fifteen minutes of “Passage” segueing into a cover of Ace Frehley’s Kiss song “Fractured Mirror”.

“Passage” begins with close-mic’d scrunching (crys cole’s contact mic and brushes) and sporadic piano key hits, then Jessika Kenney’s thin, wavering multi-track vocal intonations doubled by a woozy electronic oscillation (Ambarchi playing wine glasses), from the mists of which Eyvind Kang’s viola and Ambarchi’s guitar pick their way into the light via an undifferentiated melody.

Clarity comes after six minutes, with a cross-fade to the insistent guitar tune and metronomic Mellotron snap of “Fractured Mirror”, a spiralling uplifting piece of music that brings us fully into the expansive, isotropic light hinted at by “Salt”, and a sparkling guitar duet with Natasha Rose.

The Milk Factory (UK):

Looking back at Oren Ambarchi’s extraordinarily vast and varied body of work, it seems almost impossible to believe that he only began releasing music fourteen years ago. The list of his collaborations alone is impressive, counting the likes of Sunn O))), Fennesz, Jim O’Rourke, Keith Rowe or Keiji Haino amongst many others, and his own solo outputs, published primarily on Touch, constitutes a truly singular collection of experimental music even amongst his peers.

Released almost five years on from his last solo outing, In The Pendulum’s Embrace, Audience Of One may initially prove something of an intriguing release for the usually poised Australian as he lines up vocals and drum beats, and appears to almost do away with guitars altogether in parts of the record. Whilst announced as a four-part suite, this album really collects four radically different pieces, each recorded with a number of collaborators, and each defining a particular space.

The album opens on a rather soft note with the delicate sonic shimmers of Salt, but rapidly this set up is given an unusual layer with Warm Ghost’s Paul Duncan’s vocals, which, whilst gentle and emotionally charged, changes the aspect of the piece quite substantially. At just five and a half minutes, this is a surprisingly accessible moment of atmospheric pop (almost) for Ambarchi, who even adds strings later on. By contrast, Knots is a much more complex and sprawling affair. Led from the start by a sustained hi-hat motif, driven by drummer Joe Talia, with whom Ambarchi released an album on Touch last year, around which the piece slowly takes shape, this is a vast progressive experiment which takes some time to get in motion fully, and continues to morph all the way until it eventually collapses in a clatter of distorted electronics. During the piece’s slow progression, Ambarchi, who leads a formation of six here, deploys ever changing drone structures with at their core various strata composed of more or less saturated electric guitars, upon which are added strings or French horn segments. As the piece gains intensity, the saturated guitars become more prominent and compact, but almost two-third in, things seem to lighten up with a shift towards a string-led section. This is however short-lived as the track seemingly begins to implode as it is subjected to increasingly damaging blogs, until it eventually disintegrates entirely.

With Passage, Ambarchi, here accompanied of sound artist Crys Cole, Eyvind Kang on viola and piano and vocalist Jessika Kenney, returns to more familiar atmospheric grounds, although he favours Hammond organ and wine glasses to create a wonderfully warm and textured piece, only adding guitar motifs towards the end. Cole’s use of contact microphones adds a tiny touch of grit to an otherwise perfectly still and smooth piece. The album concludes with the rather nuanced pastoral cover of Ace Frehley’s Fractured Mirror. Ambarchi refrains from following the harder edge of the original’s second half, preserving instead the shimmering acoustic guitar motifs which defines the whole piece.

If Oren Ambarchi has for the most part relentlessly redefined his sound with his solo work, this latest excursion intends to take things into quite a different direction, or at least to show a wider scope. This somewhat radical shift however, once the moment of surprise passed, appears perfectly pertinent in the man’s cannon and could well signal the beginning of a new era in his work.

The Stranger (USA):

How Oren Ambarchi Turned Me on to Ace Frehley's "Fractured Mirror"

On Oren Ambarchi’s recent and very good minimalist album, Audience of One (released by Touch and featuring contributions from Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney), the Australian avant-garde guitarist covers “Fractured Mirror” by KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Intrigued by the song’s wistfully beautiful melody in Ambarchi’s version, I sought Frehley’s original on YouTube. I’d never devoted much time or thought to KISS and Ace, even though I was the perfect age to get into them during their mid-’70s peak. My adolescent mind was content with Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Funkadelic, the Sweet, Hendrix, Gary Glitter, Rufus, T.Rex, Ohio Players, David Essex, etc. etc. I didn’t need no stinkin’ KISS.

Anyway, hearing “Fractured Mirror” 34 years after its initial release on Ace Frehley, was kind of a revelation: Frehley’d written an instrumental that totally subverted my biases toward KISS as LCD party rock for burnouts with low brain wattage. “Fractured Mirror” is actually a heroic piece of instro rock that contrasts burly power chords with poignant, cyclical acoustic spangles and a sublime, snaking guitar-synth solo. This song is almost on the lofty level of some of Danny Kirwan’s compositions for Fleetwood Mac (see especially "Sunny Side of Heaven," "Sometimes," and "Dragonfly").

I wonder how Ace has lived all these years without my appreciation of his art. [Dave Segal]

Allmusic (USA):

Recruiting a variety of guests and fellow travelers, including Eyvind Kang and Crys Cole, Oren Ambarchi continues in his vein of excellent solo releases on Touch with 2012's An Audience of One. The still feeling of "Salt," the album starter, suggests that it's not merely a solitary audience, but a contemplation of solitary feeling -- with calm slow melodies, softly echoed singing from Warm Ghost's Paul Duncan that's part stern, part wistful, and a sense of focused contemplation. "Passage" has a similar feeling at the start with its piano introduction, and notes paced out as Jessika Kenney's singing and textures via Cole emphasize centering and looking inward more than out. But this also blends into the concluding "Fractured Mirror" -- an interpretation of a genuinely pretty, moody instrumental from Ace Frehley's late-'70s solo album, keeping the same skeletal serenity of the original and turning the album's focus outward in turn. "Knots" takes up most of the album, a half-hour-long piece of dark ambience that has the virtue of demonstrating how much more clear and unique Ambarchi's aesthetic and musical voice has become with time. As the soft, reticent chill settles into a slow unfolding of various elements -- what could almost be Tuvan throat singing at one part, a distant percussive part from Joe Talia as feedback coils and snarls at another, or a two-note moan pattern that feels like a fanfare via Vangelis' Blade Runner work for another -- into a full arrangement partially courtesy of Kang; it's at once thrilling and subtly crushing, with a slow steamroller effect. When it pulls back at about ten minutes to feature a new, sweetly exultant main theme, arrhythmic electronic pulses and pluckings and a sense of heading out into a collapsing outer space take the lead in a striking instance of Ambarchi's abilities in full flight. [Ned Raggett]

Playground (Spain):

“Audience Of One”, anticipada continuación de “The Pendulum’s Embrace” (2007), su último álbum en estudio en solitario, es el tipo de disco que solo podíamos esperar de un personaje con los arrestos, la personalidad y el arrojo de Oren Ambarchi. Lejos de acomodarse y apalancarse en su posición de vaca sagrada de la escena experimental contemporánea, que a muchos les sirve para vivir del cuento una vez han conseguido un determinado estatus, el músico australiano reivindica en este regreso su derecho a saltarse cualquier convencionalismo y movimiento lógico dentro de su propia trayectoria para dar rienda suelta a sus inquietudes y ambiciones. Y lo hace lanzándose en carpa al fondo de una piscina sonora con la que muchos quedarán sorprendidos, desconcertados, contrariados o maravillados, pero en ningún caso indiferentes. Digamos ya de entrada que en “Audience Of One” Ambarchi se permite algunas licencias con las que nadie contaba: la primera, en la canción de apertura, incorporar la voz de Paul Duncan, un elemento hasta ahora ajeno a su propuesta que, además, ayuda a darle una forma muy convencional y ortodoxa a la composición. “Salt” quizás sea la pieza menos ambarchiana que ha publicado hasta la fecha, pero es todo un descubrimiento, y en cierto modo llega para desmitificar su rol de autor esquivo e inaccesible que sólo sabe manipular capas de ruido. No solo tiene vocación de pop pastoral y sensorial, sino que también es inusitadamente emotiva. La segunda licencia, aún más inesperada: una versión del “Fractured Mirror” de Ace Frehley. Y no una versión radicalmente distinta del original, sino más bien una reformulación del riff de guitarra inicial con el añadido de un beat electrónico que le da al cover un aire indietrónico de perfume casi vintage.

“Passage”, tercera de las cuatro pistas que configuran el disco, es la más reconocible dentro de su universo. Un piano solitario y drones de ambient claustrofóbico, todo muy estilizado y depurado, cumplen con su cometido, pero lo cierto es que en el contexto de pruebas y experimentación aperturista del álbum parece el momento más rutinario y convencional de la contienda. Y es que al lado de “Knots”, canción de 33 minutos que ejerce de columna vertebral de todo el proyecto, todo parece anecdótico. Media hora en la que Ambarchi se sube al tren del free-jazz, del krautrock y del post-rock, a la vez, sin orden aparente y en un estado de expresividad febril, y que desmonta cualquier apriorismo posible relacionado con su singladura artística. Casi podría funcionar como un álbum por sí misma, pero incrustada entre dos perlas casi pop su valor adquiere especial resonancia. Es el resumen ideal, lejos de la empanada mental y del mazacote experimental, para un “Audience Of One” que además de disco notable y convincente es toda una revelación.

Current (USA):

So far, many of the best releases of 2012 have found pop artists stretching the limits of traditional songcraft through experimental techniques. Oren Ambarchi's latest has somewhat of a reverse effect. Audience of One features a well-established experimental composer subverting his signature sound by incorporating pop influences and a wider instrumental palette than seen on any of his previous albums. Over four tracks, Ambarchi moves from pastoral folk to epic droning free jazz to elegant ambiance and, finally, to a Jim O'Rourke-esque reinvention of a Kiss song. With such an eclectic mix of styles one would expect this album to be a schizophrenic mess but, instead, Audience of One is surprisingly consistent and tasteful. Opener "Salt" is a heartbreaking pop song that sounds like the kind of music Bon Iver should be making. "Knots" is a 33-minute workout carried by skittering drums, mystical orchestration, and several impassioned solos from Ambarchi. "Passage" and "Fractured Mirror" are two very different exercises in subtlety that masterfully segue into one other. At only four songs, Audience of One can seem too short at first, but when an album leaves you longing for more — and begs for immediate re-listening — it's doing something right. [Marcus Rubio]

FACT (UK):

Were Oren Ambarchi to have a mantra, in this case highly conceivable, it would be something along the lines of, “Start simple then increase in complexity.” Although the improv. guitarist who is well recognised for supplying ‘Bass Bombs’ in SunnO))) and often associated with notions of Heavy, his solo work tends to be more delicate – with Audience Of One capturing him at his most porcelain.

Elements of soundtrack engulf much of the record. Not in the sense of all ambient music being soundtrack music, but rather that the record is littered with symbolism and structural revisionism. Textures reappear and notes return as the record shifts in and out of the foreground. Ambarchi, a master of sustained sound, allows every note to trail off, to be vapourous. This practice is merely a micro version of Oren’s episodic structures with notes and phrases entering, leaving, and returning to the record – creating a circular movement.

Such analytical structuring affects the record in contrasting ways. The notion of rebirth, which engulfs the LP can be readily associated with the spiritual, whereas ideas of higher order share kinship with the cosmic. Ambarchi has always engaged with the hallowed, citing tone and “music as time” as key factors. These elements plainly exist on Audience Of One, not least in opening track ‘Salt’ (the title recalling our mortality), where the stretched, slurred vocals, layered then repeated, contain elements of chant, ideas furthered by occasional chimes. With such pan-spiritual referencing the record extends well beyond, yet seldom overlooks, Ambarchi’s Jewish culture. To read that Ambarchi spent some time in the company of John Zorn doesn’t come as a surprise with Audience Of One featuring cultural fusion and tension, as well as dissonance.

Extended track ‘Knots’ is closest to SunnO))), and most quintessentially Ambarchi. With a slow-as-to-stop build the track finds momentum in a vast array of sounds, peaking with the fluttering drone of a generator that awkwardly occupyies a prominent position. ‘Cool’, meanwhile, features elements of jazz drumming, and in the track’s final stages Ambarchi introduces thick electronic pulses: paced, clearly defined, and rich. The care and balance into each of them suggests that they are coded, that they are designed to represent precise events. Even the high-tempo drumming that passes could be mistaken for a Library Recording, before the track retreats into cavernous industrialism then ends, à la Kreng; the corrupted soul of a virtual battlefield played at quarter-speed. The sound retiring to increasingly unexpected intervals – as unsettling as it is complex.

Although not the album’s zenith, it’s its final track ‘Fractured Mirror’ that throws up the most questions; a dutiful cover of former Kiss lead guitarist Ace Frehley. Those au fait with Frehley may be able to associate these artists more readily; however, from an Oren Ambarchi perspective, it is easy to draw parallels with his kinship to Phil Lynott. As such ‘Fractured Mirror’ brings about a lightheartedness that would otherwise be missing on the record, making for a beautiful and beguiling addition to what we already know of Oren Ambarchi. [Samuel Breen]

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

Go Mag (Spain):

MOJO (UK):

Chroniques Electroniques (France):

Oren Ambarchi, voici un nom qui ne dit probablement rien à nos habituels lecteurs. Encore que. Quand on place son nom aux côtés de ceux de Fennesz, John Zorn, Pimmon, Jim O'Rourke, Merzbow et même les princes du drone noir Sunn 0))), le guitariste percussionniste et manipulateur de son australien (d'origine irakienne) ravive un certain intérêt, car tous les gens cités précédemment ont été ses collaborateurs. Le choix du label aussi, relève de tout sauf du hasard. Touch, maison britannique qui fête ses 30 ans cette année, a ouvert ses portes à des gens comme Mika Vainio, Biosphere, Chris Watson, Hildur Guonadottir, Lawrence English et Fennesz (oui, encore lui). Toute cette petite séance de name dropping facile pour rappeler toute l'importance de Oren Ambarchi et de ses travaux. Lui qui plaque son empreinte aussi inclassable que identifiable sur chacun de ses disques. Son dernier en date, In The Pendulum's Embrace, mérite aussi toute l'attention.

Si le corps de Audience Of One paraît harmonieux et gracile, il contient pourtant une protubérance malade, disgracieuse et finalement majoritaire, puisque sa deuxième partie représente en terme de temps plus de la moitié de l'oeuvre.
L'écrin débute avec élégance et majesté sur Salt, portant les différentes couches de la voix chaude et raffinée de Paul Duncan vers des cimes délicates et minimalistes. On reconnait à peine les cordes (guitares, viole et violon), entourées des notes rondes issues d'un piano sûrement électrique, tant Ambarchi leur fait subir d'arrangements et de textures. Point de zèle ici précisons le, la paix n'est simplement pas la seule arme de sa guitare, mais nous aurons l'occasion d'en reparler. On aura en tous cas compris dès le premier morceau que le travail d'enregistrement et d'arrangement, est ici poussé jusqu'aux rangs de l'excellence. Ambarchi n'est pas mégalo, il a compris que confier les différentes parties (vocales, autres cordes que guitares, batteries et percussions) à des spécialistes pouvait servir sa musique et même, la sublimer.

L'exemple le plus pertinent réside sur le magnifique Passage, quand les microphones de contact creusent l'oreille interne droite en même temps qu'ils caressent la gauche, que les voix et les drones de cordes s'emboîtent dans un coït langoureux et sec. Les différents bruissements, le piano hésitant mais essentiel, entament une partie de cache-cache avec les silences. Les verres à vins se noient dans des ondes volatiles et fugaces tandis que la viole lance sa plainte. Le temps des larmes et de la prosternation est venu.
Le mix est si bien fait qu'on entend à peine venir les cordes folk et la pulsation métronomique de l'ascensionnel Fractured Mirror, qui emprunte plus que les même chemins que le Teardrop de Massive Attack. Le titre est certes magnifique, surtout quand les voix se perdent dans les volutes opaques du mellotron, mais contient malgré tout une certaine longueur.

Voilà pour la volupté et la délicatesse, passons désormais au génie et à la violence.
Knots dure plus de trente minutes. Son schéma, comparable à un caryotype de quintet malade, s'étire à souhait jusqu'à rendre fou celui qui y frotte sa cage à miel. Non, un grillon n'y bouffe pas lentement les cables des amplis pour s'y recroqueviller ensuite. Ce ne sont que des basses fréquences qui couvrent l'inhumanité du batteur virtuose Joe Talia (avec qui Ambarchi avait déjà improvisé sur Hit & Run en 2011). Les drones se heurtent et font péter les spectres comme des anévrismes. Le cor sonne l'appel à la traque vers les abysses comme dans le Carboniferous de Zu. La jam franchit ensuite une nouvelle barrière, entre le kraut et le noise. Je veux voir ce track en live et mourir ensuite, en arborant la béatitude de ceux qui ont les codes sources du priapisme musical. Le batteur paraît alors aidé par un alter-ego invisible. Ce type doit avoir des avant-bras épais comme des troncs d'arbres. Les bourrasques électriques annonçaient forcément une accalmie dans la lutte sans merci des différents éléments, celle-ci, débutant à l'orée de la 27ème minute, ne sera que de courte durée. Oren Ambarchi saisit sa gratte et lui fait dégueuler des larsens et des saturations aux allures digitales. Des rafales de grenailles hybrides dont l'origine est issue d'un instrument que nombreux voudraient qualifier de vintage. Allez dire ça à Christian Fennesz, et à son pote Oren Ambarchi. La musique du 21ème siècle sera expérimentale ou ne sera pas.

Un album essentiel de plus à mettre au crédit du label Touch. Espérons que cet humble chronique achèvera de convaincre ceux qui nous lisent de l'acquérir dans son enveloppe charnelle. Ils se verront gratifiés d'un idéal passeport vers les sentiers de la haute fidélité. 55 commentaires pour l'assassinat du dernier Justice, 29 pour le pamphlet haineux et gratuit vis à vis du dernier Klub des Loosers, combien pour un chef d'oeuvre ? Nous vous remercions de nous lire et de nous critiquer. Remerciez vous vous même quand vous achetez des disques comme Audience Of One d'Oren Ambarchi. A bon entendeur, adieu (bientôt).

Freistil (Austria):

Ox (Germany):

LidoveNoviny (Czechia):

Rockerilla (Italy):

Hawai (Chile):

Lo último que habíamos oído del australiano Oren Ambrachi fue “Tima Formosa” (Black Truffle–Center for Contemporary Art Kitakyushu, 2010) [116], su obra con ese ensemble de terror que lo reúne con el japonés Keiji Haino y el norteamericano Jim O’Rourke, y que tuvo su continuación en “In A Flash Everything Comes Together As One There Is No Need For A Subject” (Black Truffle–Medama Records, 2011) y en el reciente “Imikuzushi” (Black Truffle–Medama Records, 2011). Entre medio también hubo tiempo para discos compartidos con Joe Talia, Robbie Avenaim y el mismo O’Rourke, pero este 2012 lo inaugura discográficamente con una obra en solitario –un decir, pues en sus créditos aparecen una decena de nombres– en el comienzo de los treinta años de Touch.

Este disco, fraccionado en cuatro partes, es una muestra de las muchas caras que tiene este guitarrista que ha derivado a compositor, todas ellas reflejo de sus intenciones de fracturar el sonido. En ocasiones puede y logra parecer amable, pero muchas otras lo que hace es herir a través de un muy cuidado plan que, sirviéndose de la amplia gama que puede dar el noise, culmina en este caso en un trabajo libre y aparentemente desprovisto de esquemas, incluso desconcertante por ese contraste, por pasarse de una vereda a la otra. Ambarchi se ocupa principalmente de aquello en lo que mayormente se ha desarrollado, la guitarra, y deja en una serie de nobles asistentes el resto de los sonidos que en su mente ayudaran a forjar esta sínfonía de los sonidos agrietados: Joe Talia, Janel Leppin, Paul Duncan, Eyvind Kang, etc. Casi una hora completa con cuatro aristas que, simplificando, se pueden sintetizar en dos: un lado más agreste y el otro más cordial, como nunca lo habíamos visto antes. Y como muestra de ese lado oscuro tenemos “Knots”, la pieza número dos, treinta y tres minutos en los que partiendo de un uso de las percusiones propias del minimalismo clásico avanza, escondida bajo un manto de electrónica sucia una masa compacta de ruido ensordecedor y de ahí a un rock libre, free noise para el fin del mundo, o el sonido que se debe escuchar el apocalipsis llegue y los edificios se caigan uno a uno –el final parece un choque de fierros y escombros muertos–. Es esta la pieza central, que se ve extraña entre las otras que la rodean, que están para comprobar que Oren también tiene corazón. “Salt” es una pieza de (post)rock sosegado, una sutileza de electrónica delicada y tierna que se mece como una tela de art-pop, como aquel que fabricaba hace tres décadas pero actualizado a tiempos modernos, sinfonía de bolsillo en sintonía a la vez con Dean Roberts que con David Sylvian. “Passage”, otra comprobación del perfil cortés del australiano, esta vez a base de piano, digna de Sylvian Chauveau, el último y más digno heredero de Sylvian, pieza que se adhiere en sus minutos finales a “Fractured Miror”, insospechada reivindicación de la obra en solitario de Ace Frehley (sí, el mismo de Kiss). Ignoro por completo a que sabría la original, pero la adaptación que de ella hace Ambarchi es un deleite de folk y de música rural, rememorando los gloriosos momentos que nos dieron Gastr del Sol, con la guitarra acústica mirando al sol, una caja de ritmo como de segunda mano, y la voz del mismísimo Oren en coros, cercando de nuevo las fronteras del minimalismo, de los tiempos en que esa nueva tradición se encontró con la aún más nueva traída de la mano de John Fahey –aún vive entre nosotros–.

En “Audience Of One” todo viene junto, la amabilidad y la crudeza, lo pastoral y lo industrial, opuestos que no entorpecen el camino del otro. Desde fuera puede parecer hasta molesto, pero créanme –yo, que odio los discos demasiado heterogéneos–, la sensación es la de estar contemplando a un mismo y solo sujeto dejar salir sus inquietudes, exhibir sus muchas caras, las mismas que uno puede tener, sin perder en lo absoluto la coherencia, y de paso mostrando una cara afable que más de alguno no se esperaba.

Improvsphere (France):

Rotual (Italy):

Beard Rock (UK):

On 'Audience of One', Australian multi-instrumentalist and sometime Sunn O))) collaborator Oren Ambarchi takes a voyage beyond his previous core sound and sets sail for avant garde pastures, through a tempest of biblical proportions.

It begins with the rather lush 'Salt', the first part of a four-sided epic suite. So gentle is the electronica and strings, it’s a wonder it doesn’t collapse under the weight of singer Paul Duncan's (from Warm Giants) delicate vocals.

Ragnarök is occurring and 'Knots' is the soundtrack. This 33-minute leviathan begins with Joe Talia's mono machine-like drums chattering on and on. Knowing the track's length, you assume it's going to be nothing like 'Salt' and, indeed, it isn't. Ominous dark tones, unsettling drones, deep-in the-mix guitars, abyssal basses and Goliath horns (the loudest horns I have ever heard on record, if that is indeed what they are) develop and intensify while the drums are hammered frantically. This is pure free-form, setting the perfect foil for the rest of the sound.

'Passage' and 'Fractured' seem like one track, they flow so easily into one another. After a bleak piano opening, 'Passage's angelic choral vocal glides over me, and the womb-like safety of Jessika Kenney's voice gives flight to the song. It's the perfect tonic to soothe the mind after the onslaught of 'Knots' unrelenting cavernous doom. Before I know it, 'Fractured' is underway; a cover of a song by KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Over a crisp artificial beat, acoustic guitars fall over one another in perpetual motion, sumptuous tones accompanying them until the arrival of Oren's trademark guitar sound.

In places, ‘Audience of One’ reminds me of Spiritualized Electric Mainline, Asva and Brian Eno. However, avant-garde innovation is deep within its core, and to compare it to anything else is demeaning to its creators. There is something here for everyone who likes their coffee laced with something strong. Open the suspicious package. [Darkwülf]


Musique Machine:

Oren Ambarchi’s ‘Audience of One’ is the first proper solo album the Australian experimental multi-instrumentalist has recorded for Touch since 2007’s ‘In the Pendulum’s Embrace’.
In the intervening years he has continued to ramp up his eclectic and seemingly ceaseless collaborative schedule with major players operating at the interstices of free jazz, industrial, electronic and avant metal including Mats Gustafsson, z’ev, Jim O’Rourke, Keiji Haino and, perhaps most famously, Sunn O))). With his background as an improv drummer and his unconventional use of guitar ‘n’ FX as a generator of seductively suspended tones, Ambarchi seems to effortlessly augment pretty much any configuration of players to collectively produce wildly original and captivating work. In comparison, his solo releases up to and including ‘In the Pendulum’s Embrace’ have largely focussed on studied, live processes that transmute his guitar tones into rivers of harmonics that elegantly combine and fall out of phase with one another to reveal meditative sonic phenomena not expected from the six stringed instrument. Whereas ‘Audience of One’, perhaps influenced more by his collaborations than previous solo outings, showcases many more sides to Ambarchi’s rich talents.

As if strategically pre-empting the extent of these deviations, Touch released a compilation two years’ ago, suitably titled ‘Intermission’, that hoovered up diverse tracks from last decade that retrospectively highlight new nuances in Ambarchi’s output. And perhaps the most surprising track on the compilation was ‘Iron Waves’, a remix of ‘Parasail’ by New Yorker Paul Duncan (of Warm Ghost), where Ambarchi’s billowing guitar and ritualistic bell-work are set beneath Duncan’s voice to form a deceptively simple yet emotional ballad, and ‘Audience of One’ opens with what could be described as its a sequel. Titled ‘Salt’, it is a touching, understated spiritual lamenting childhood memories of the taste of tears. Duncan’s multi-layered smoky vocals drift across Ambarchi’s sympathetically suspended guitar tones, each ignited by the briefest of pops before extending bass-heavy warmth and bright sonorous beams that caress then coalesce as they decay. Instead of a chorus, gently simmering strings emerge to form a soulful shoulder for Duncan to cry on.

After such a tender tale, nothing can prepare one for ‘Knots’, which, at over 30 minutes, takes the lion’s share of Audience of One’s hour. For the most part it comes on like some kind of gladiatorial fight between Ambarchi’s full arsenal of guitar tones and Joe Talia’s fierce and incessant percussion. For the first half they seem to be aggressively circling each other, Talia’s propulsive and frenetic tapping taunting Ambarchi into releasing animalistic groans and whines, egged on by a ceremonial French horn and arching strings arranged by Eyvind Kang. But by midway the circling has abated and the fight is truly on – low slung distorted power chords seethe and burn as drumming erupts and splashes in retaliation – until the guitars’ feedback forms a merciful rain that slowly and temporarily washes away the violence, lending a deceptive calm. But the last seven or so minutes are filled with what sounds like big, slow attacks on sheet metal, as if the artists are tearing up the performance space until it can no longer produce any sounds at all.

‘Passage’ follows to take us away from the destructive arena into a sharply contrasting serenity of interleaving small sounds – single sustained piano notes overlap small rustling movements patiently joined by the pure tones from Jessika Kenney’s exquisite voice, Ambarchi’s Hammond organ and a pleasantly whining wine glass – before Kang’s viola is bowed loosely and a guitar is casually plucked to suggest a song is coming.

And that song is a cover version of Ace Frehley’s instrumental rock anthem ‘Fractured Mirror’ that closed his first solo album back in 1978 while still a member of Kiss. Providing the last of ‘Audience of One’s many stylistic surprises, Ambarchi’s version is played straight, although resists the original’s power chords, to revel in its wholly melodic, repetitive properties largely spun by layers of brightly plucked acoustic and electric guitars.

‘Fractured Mirror’ provides a shiny, happy ending as the credits roll on a multi-faceted album that takes its listeners through all known emotions (and, quite possibly, some new undefined ones) where fiercely atonal avant garde manoeuvres are followed by wholly musical matter without losing the strong, coherent identity of a coolly confident composer at the height of his powers. Expertly played, mixed and sequenced, Audience of One is, quiet simply, an outstanding experience. [Russell Cuzner]

Trust (Germany):

Dissolve (France):

Audience of One, le dernier album en date de l'Australien Oren Ambarchi est un disque déroutant. A la première écoute, il est même décevant, avant qu'il ne parvienne à creuser son chemin dans la mémoire, là où viennent s'installer toutes les oeuvres qui, finalement, en valent la peine. Déroutant car Ambarchi y délaisse largement les textures filandreuses et si subtiles qui faisaient tout le charme de ses albums précédents pour Touch, Grapes from the Estate et In the Pendulum's Embrace, et qu'il y aborde des formes musicales variées et pas forcément compatibles. Parce que, au travail solitaire, il a préféré la collaboration, s'entourant de multiples partenaires qui apportent leur voix et leurs univers, parce qu'il présente comme une suite en quatre mouvements ce qui apparaît clairement comme quatre travaux distants. S'ouvrant par la pop ambient, faussement simpliste de « Salt » qui rappelle Sun, le projet parallèle d'Ambarchi en plus éthéré, Audience of One est ensuite clairement dominé par le mastodonte « Knots », plus de trente minutes qui agrègent lentement autour du battement emballé d'une cymbale des blocs de plus en plus impénétrables de grondements de basse, de claquements, de violoncelles, de cors, de drones et d'attaques noise, le tout se nouant et se dénouant sans cesse pour habiller les percussions folles de Joe Talia. C'est là, dans cette course effrénée sur la frontière, dans cet équilibre casse gueule que se situe le coeur noir de Audience of One, dans un titre d'une telle puissance qu'il faut le réécouter sans cesse pour en absorber l'essence. Après un tel choc, évidemment, le reste de l'album pâlit un peu, et même le magnifique et retenu « Passage », qui sous-tend de guitares délicates et de textures lumineuses la voix pâle de Jessika Kenney ne peut vraiment échapper à l'ombre projetée par « Knots ». Reste à la reprise du « Fractured Mirror » de Ace Frehley la charge de conclure l'album, ce que, il faut bien l'avouer elle échoue à faire vraiment, son minimalisme de façade cachant surtout une dream pop peu inspirée qui est le seul vrai point faible de l'album. En définitive, Audience of One ne peut pas, selon moi, être considéré comme l'oeuvre complète qu'Oren Ambarchi déclaire y voir, mais comme deux pièces distinctes, qui auraient clairement pu être séparées. D'un côté, les trois titres courts, encore très révélateurs de la face lumineuse du compositeur, de ses aspirations et de son passé pop, et de l'autre, « Knots » dont la force impressionnante ne justifie aucun compagnonnage, mais donne à Audience of One largement de quoi faire oublier ses quelques faiblesses.

Dalston Sound (UK):

It would take a prodigiously expansive album to encapsulate a summary of the work of Oren Ambarchi, but the Australian guitarist and percussionist has achieved the next best thing in the four compositions on this, his fifth album for Touch. It continues his embrace of more melodic forms on his last album, In The Pendulum’s Embrace, and sounds as breezy as the Brian Wilson-influenced pop music he creates as Sun with Chris Townend, but also finds expansive new contexts for the textural and experimental work of many of his earlier releases. In many ways, it’s an album that adapts the template of collaborative growth that Ambarchi’s associates Sunn O))) have adopted with such success, and applies it to his own aesthetic.

Where this album marks a real departure is in its collaborative nature: Ambarchi’s previous works are mostly solo, or at least works on which Ambarchi’s guitar playing formed the dominant characteristic. Audience of One is unified by the sensibility developed over that cycle of recordings, but embraces the contributions of judiciously selected collaborators. One track here is a co-written song, while another is an instrumental cover version of a song.

Opening track “Salt” is built around a bright radiant pulse, cushioned by piano and strings, within which nestles a dream-like song, on which co-composer Paul Duncan’s multi-tracked vocals evoke pure nostalgic reverie for some long-past other, and the memory of “salt, the way it tasted as a child”.

Since first contributing to, and then touring behind their ‘Black One’ album of 2005, Ambarchi has become an integral part of the extended Sunn 0))) family (he’s in the Gravetemple splinter group, alongside Attila Csihar and Stephen O’Malley). Sunn 0))) fans will gravitate to the 33 minutes of “Knots”, which builds to a violent, multi-layered surge of stressed guitar and electric amplifier drone on a current of kit drum polyrhythm and insistent cymbal patter.

We reach the plateau of “Knots” via a richly textured electronic wash punctuated by plosive electrical detonations, from which acoustic sounds and field recordings emerge in a shifting drone-drift. From its peak the track slowly breaks down into a wracked soundscape; the barbed detonations of a struck spring and unidentifiable portentous rumbles; a wracked sea of turbid electronic residue. A string arrangement by fellow Sunn acolyte Eyvind Kang and a part for French horn hold all these elements together, but the spine and animating presence of the piece is Joe Talia’s percussion.

The next two tracks form a suite, with the fifteen minutes of “Passage” segueing into a cover of Ace Frehley’s Kiss song “Fractured Mirror”.

“Passage” begins with close-mic’d scrunching (crys cole’s contact mic and brushes) and sporadic piano key hits, then Jessika Kenney’s thin, wavering multi-track vocal intonations doubled by a woozy electronic oscillation (Ambarchi playing wine glasses), from the mists of which Eyvind Kang’s viola and Ambarchi’s guitar pick their way into the light via an undifferentiated melody.

Clarity comes after six minutes, with a cross-fade to the insistent guitar tune and metronomic Mellotron snap of “Fractured Mirror”, a spiralling uplifting piece of music that brings us fully into the expansive, isotropic light hinted at by “Salt”, and a sparkling guitar duet with Natasha Rose. [Tim Owen]

The Chicago Reader (USA):

The Radiant Sound World of Oren Ambarchi

It's hard to keep up with Australian guitarist and sound artist Oren Ambarchi, not only because of the quantity of his recorded output (yesterday I listened to three LPs he's on that had piled up by my turntable this year), but also because he seems to reinvent himself at every turn—changing instruments, contexts, groups, and vocabularies. He's a member of thunderous drone merchants Sunn O))), and he's collaborated with the likes of Jim O'Rourke, Keiji Haino, Keith Rowe, Günter Müller, Z'ev, Lasse Marhaug, and Ester Brinkmann. But in some ways he's incredibly consistent, investing fully in the microscopic exploration of sound.

His most recent studio album, Audience of One (Touch), conceived of as a four-part suite, opens with a bona fide song, with dolorous guest vocals from Paul Duncan of New York duo Warm Ghost; you can listen to that piece, "Salt," below. This isn't entirely surprising, since Ambarchi's duo with fellow Aussie Chris Townend, Sun, explores jangly songcraft (in that setting Ambarchi plays drums). But the epic second piece, "Knots," occupies more familiar terrain—it's 30-plus minutes of resonant droning, with haunting strings and horns meticulously arranged by fellow meta-musician Eyvind Kang. Furious guitar lacerations surge over swinging drum patterns played by Joe Talia, then recede into rising-and-falling string harmonies and more guitar noises, this time sounding like an amplified live wire thrashing on the ground.

"Passage" dials down the volume and tension: it's a gentle fabric of single-note guitar flickers, wordless vocals from Jessika Kenney, and subtle frictive noises from Canadian sound artist Crys Cole. It bleeds directly into the triumphant closing piece, "Fractured Mirror"—a cover of an Ace Frehley song that features a melange of acoustic guitar, electronic bossa nova beats, swells of electric guitar, and various amorphous textures. Ambarchi's music requires a degree of submission on the part of the listener, because he doesn't serve it in the most easily digestible forms (with the occasional exception such as "Salt"). But whether the sounds are violent or calm, his total engagement makes them absorbing and meditative.

Dark Entries (Belgium):

Ondarock (Italy):

"Salt" è un'elegia fragilissima, appesa ad un cielo stellato in cui le stelle esplodono qua e là, ma senza far rumore e condotta da una voce (quella di Paul Duncan) che si muove tra tono confidenziale e invisibili strappi emozionali.

Si apre così questo nuovo lavoro di Oren Ambarchi, spiazzando un po' quanti sono abituati alle sue peregrinazioni sonore. Ma è solo uno specchietto per le allodole, perché parte la traccia numero due ("Knots", con il contributo di Eyvind Kang in fase di arrangiamento) e ti ritrovi imprigionato in una lunghissima odissea di oltre trentatré minuti (!!!), in cui il chitarrista australiano mette a punto una vischiosa jam in cui la sua arte manipolatoria - fatta salva una prima parte poco incisiva - incide momenti piuttosto interessanti (anche se non esenti da un certo grado di autoindulgenza), spingendo verso vette distorte, scolpendo accumulazioni materiche, diffondendo suggestioni oniriche e trasformando, come si ascolta negli ultimissimi minuti, le corde della sua chitarra in una piccola centrale rumorista.

Per "Passage", invece, per le sue trame minimaliste e sfuggenti (costruite con tratteggi essenziali di pianoforte e chitarra, vocalizzi angelici e texture delicatissime), la press release della Touch rimanda al minimalismo non-accademico dei nostri Roberto Cacciapaglia e Giusto Pio, anche se non inopportuna appare la voce "new age". A conferma della sua voglia di spiazzare, il disco si chiude con la cover di "Fractured Mirror", brano che nel 1978 chiudeva l'omonimo esordio di Ace Frehley dei Kiss. L'hard-rock trasformato in un carillon rileyiano... [Francesco Nunziata]

MOJO (UK):





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