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Oren Ambarchi - In the Pendulum's Embrace

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Artist: Oren Ambarchi

Album: In the Pendulum's Embrace

Label: Southern Lord

Review date: Jul. 9, 2008

With over two decades worth of live performances and an ever-increasing discography to his name, Australian guitarist/drummer/experimentalist Oren Ambarchi knows no bounds in his sonic explorations. Whether it be testing the depths of darkness with the hooded Sunn 0))) crew, exploring harmonic minimalism with fellow Aussie Martin Ng, or creating massive guitar compositions on his own, Ambarchi has established himself as a mighty force in the world of out-there music. His latest solo full-length, In the Pendulum's Embrace, is no exception, shaking foundations with its otherworldly tones and time-warping guitar palettes.

Though seemingly worlds apart from the skittish experimentation of 1999's Insulation, In The Pendulum's Embrace isn't too much of a sonic departure for Ambarchi's recent work, especially considering the gentle melodies explored on his 2004 full-length, Grapes From the Estate. Pendulum almost picks up where Grapes left off, descending into a deeper realm of subsonic dissonance from the sustained bass note clipped at Grapes' end. As Jason Bivins noted in his review, the incorporation of such glowing textures was rather surprising for Ambarchi's usually difficult and complex exhibitions. But while Pendulum doesn't necessarily depart from the more accessible approach exercised on Grapes, it does take steps toward marrying the dark mysticism of his Southern Lord compatriots with the invitation of patient drone.

The first of Pendulum's three lengthy tracks, "Fever, A Warm Poison," exhibits an array of Ambarchi's meticulously layered instrumentation, incorporating touches of piano, bells, glass harmonica, percussion and of course, petrifying bass frequencies. The tones topple slowly, braided in and out of tune with lazy guitar chords that could've been lifted from a recent Earth record, even more contemplative and sloth-like in their structure. The acoustic subtleties that tickle beneath the electric pressures are remarkable, generously rewarding the attentive listener. It wasn't easy to achieve the level of compromise between the competing acoustic/electric elements; in an interview with Australian blog Cyclic Defrost, Ambarchi confesses the number of mastering attempts involved with Pendulum, including the exasperation of Chris Townend, his collaborator in the pop group Sun. Australian studio Moose finally secured the proper harmonic balance though, and the results are staggering.

"Inamorata" evolves with greater density than the album's opener, solemnly stretching the overlapped guitar plucks beneath the string work of Veren Grigorov, who also lent his talents to "Remedios the Beauty" on Grapes. The track's components are stripped away as slowly as they were assembled, acquiescing into the echoes from which it originated. "Trailing Moss in the Mystic Glow" is the most uplifting of Pendulum's exhibits, though it still wades in the melancholic void that the record so gorgeously fills. He even threads his own vocals among the guitar and bells, magically fading in as if they'd been there the whole time, humming backwards among the acoustic's slippery strums. The chords are cut short at the record's end, shutting off like the timed limit of a periscope peek into infinity.

For a man whose recorded output and collaborations expand at the rate of escalating gas prices, it may seem a little late in the game to finally be covering Pendulum's release, I admit. Avantists keen enough to keep up with Ambarchi's expansive work will already be quite familiar with the record, originally unleashed in the States and the UK last Fall by the equally outstanding Touch and Southern Lord labels. However, in keeping trend with his last full-length, Ambarchi's devilish chums at Southern Lord have recently released Pendulum to 180-gram double-vinyl, more accurately equating the record's physical weight with the sonic mass it conveys and including an exclusive, side-long composition with Anthony Pateras' prepared piano. I'm hard-pressed to think of another musician whose work is so deserved of such treatment, and Pendulum proves itself as an essential step in Ambarchi's amorphous exploits. He already has several other new releases available for 2008, including a collaboration with percussionist z'ev, a breathtaking 7" for Touch's Sevens series, and an upcoming one-sided LP for Table of the Elements, so pay attention – there's no telling where Ambarchi's excursions will find him next.

By Cole Goins

Other Reviews of Oren Ambarchi

Grapes from the Estate


Intermission 2000-2008

Audience of One

Sagittarian Domain

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View all articles by Cole Goins

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