Audience Of One
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 '70s 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 Of One stems simply from the unique, patient sensibility Ambarchi has developed over the last 20 years; abstracting musical forms into their barest forms, while somehow always managing to leave their emotive power intact.