Dusted Reviews

Ambarchi and Ng - Fateless

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Ambarchi and Ng

Album: Fateless

Label: Asphodel

Review date: Jan. 22, 2007

For centuries, artists have worked within the context of music set to visuals, the aural accompaniment an augmentation of the tone of action on stage or on screen, often a partner in the development of atmosphere or emotion within a work. The converse relationship has a shorter history, at least in terms of widespread use. MTV and the music video are an obvious example, though the oft-used forms of narrative depiction or recorded performance, whether on stage or otherwise, tend to undermine the potential that lies within the more abstract form of the marriage. Friends and frequent collaborators Oren Ambarchi and Martin Ng, along with visual artists Tina Frank and Robin Fox, plumb such a partnership of sight and sound with excellent results on Fateless, which pairs the music of Ambarchi and Ng with visuals generated in real time as not simply a response to the music, but a more immediate and direct effect of the sound.

These two Australians have worked together numerous times, with two previous albums to their name, Reconnasissance (2001) and Vigil (2004). Both featured artwork by Tina Frank, house artist of the Mego imprint, and the latter included two video files, made by Frank, digital responses to the duo’s music. In 2003, at Montreal’s MUTEK festival, Ambarchi and Ng performed with live visuals by Frank, with the music being taken in and reprocessed into visuals in real time. The result of that partnership, which awed those in attendance, is now available, recreated, as “Vigilance,” a 40-minute dance of geometric flair. Comparisons of Frank’s colored lines to the on-screen setting of Tron aren’t out of line, but rather than the clean lines of 1982’s inner-computer environs, Frank’s contribution echoes the classic “Mystify” screensaver, albeit in a far more involved form. Ng and Ambarchi begin with buzzes and hums, and Frank’s lines respond subtly, twisted skeletal planes arcing across the screen before quickly fading from view. The visuals build in prominence as the music develops, increasing in frequency and vibrancy, and as the delicate tones and scribbles of Ambarchi and Ng progress and begin to overlap, the screen comes alive with throbbing grids of color. Intersections create fleeting optical illusions, and thicker lines and fragmented shapes begin to appear. At its most active, “Vigilance” remains quite restrained, musically, with sharp hums overlaid with undulating waves and bell-like tones.

The cathode ray oscilloscope is typically used to measure electrical voltages visually, though in the hands of Robin Fox, it’s the source of a ghostly display. Using a computer algorithm to modulate the oscilloscope’s input to match the music, Fox conjures a display or eerie beauty. Ambarchi and Ng are, of course, creating sounds entirely uncharacteristic of their respective guitar and turntable, and while “8 Seconds of Weightlesness,” as the piece is titled, is slightly more dense in its minimalism, there’s still a collection of gentle tones at its core. The bright, slightly greenish light of Fox’s oscilloscope first forms a rigid square, inside of which smaller loops and squiggles play, but the instrument performs more than a single trick. Soon, pulsating cobwebs of light emanate from the screen’s center in shimmering bundles. Fox’s visuals morph into a series of pale clusters, like fine scratches on a pieces of film, which swirl and cavort beautifully before regaining their opaque luminescence. “8 Seconds of Weightlessness” is most stunning when its faint shadows and trails of the light are most evident, the light moving like pencil strokes across the dark background.

It’s not surprising that for much of Fateless the men whose names adorn the cover are often upstaged by the work of Frank and Fox. But Ambarchi and Ng play their parts perfectly, staying largely unobtrusive, and allowing each other – but more importantly, Frank and Fox – to work freely, with no one contribution obscuring the others. The result is a dynamic DVD. It’s a shame, though, that the names of Tina Frank and Robin Fox were left off the cover, as the success of Fateless is as much their doing as it is that of their musical counterparts.

By Adam Strohm

Read More

View all articles by Adam Strohm

Find out more about Asphodel

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.