Last year I had some fun with Justice Yeldham’s record Cicatrix. I thought for the most part it was pretty boring although to be fair a couple of the live tracks at the end were not bad. To cut a long story short, Mr Yeldham himself, Lucas Abela, went-fucking-off in the comments section. It was great. I think he was calling me a fuckwit in a diplomatic way. I published his comments because I think if I’m going to slag something off, the guy who made it should get a right of reply. The thing that irked me about his comments though was a sense of elitism that I took from his criticism. He seemed outraged that I had never seen one of his shows because at some stage he lived in my home town and he performed here regularly. Call me sensitive but what I think he was really saying was because I had come to the genre of noise/experimental music only recently I had no right to opine on what I though was good and what I thought was crap. Perhaps it was the fact that I rarely go to live shows that irked him. Again a rather stupid criticism considering I’m posting on the disc and not the live experience. I saw The National two weeks ago and hey I’ll be honest, I’m not rushing out to buy their records but that show was pretty fucking impressive. They finished most of their noisier song with a big blanket of transcendent white noise. I was in heaven. They need to somehow get that transcendence on to their records but hey, they’re doing OK without my opinion.
What I suppose I’m trying to get at is I’m relatively new to this whole noise/experimental stuff. In fact this was the reason I started this blog. I wanted to, in some small way, be able to make sense of music which excited me but somehow felt isolated from. I’ve posted before on how difficult I find it to describe some of this music. It is fucking hard. What I’m coming to terms with now though is the sheer size of the genre I’ve chosen to explore. I’m dipping my toes into the world of Merzbow more and more, and I kind of cringe when I look at my Merzbear post particularly the bit about being kind of frightened to delve into his back catalogue.
This brings me to Oren Ambarchi. Until I read an interview in The Wire recently I had no idea he existed. This in itself was kind of embarrassing considering his name is proudly displayed on some of my Sunn O))) records (note to self; must read liner notes better). He’s been churning out records for years under his own name, as part of Sun (not to be confused with Sunn O))) and in various collaborations. One of the other criticisms that Abela made was that I didn’t seem to post on many Australian artists. I actually think that criticism is fair and at the end of the day he was nice enough to point me in the right direction.
There seems to be a fair bit of media about Ambarchi recently. His latest album, In the Pendulums Embrace, seems to be getting a fair bit of support from indie record stores around the place. I fully intend to pick up a copy of that record but I decided to start with one of his earlier works. Various sources seems to suggest that Grapes From The Estate is pretty good so here it is.
The thing that struck me first about this record is how un-SunnO))) it is. Few subsonic growls and no death metallish scowls or oppressive doom-laden blanket guitar riffs on this record. Mr Ambarchi instead gives us a meditation in minimalism. This is pretty, fragile minimalism which is as peaceful as the photo on the cover. The whole thing opens with Corkscrew, a ten minute excursion in stark, tonal repetition. Girl with The Silver Eyes continue the theme but noisier elements and just a smidgen of subsonic guitar squelch is added just to knock the whole thing off balance from time to time. The real pearl though is Remedios the Beauty. Elements of melody and rhythm are brought in. The twenty minute closer Stars Aligned, Webs Spun brings us back to earlier theme of tonal pulses, repetition and the odd subsonic, vaguely doom-like muted blast.
Grapes From the Estate is a dream of mininalism and modern composition. When I read the word minimalism I’m prone to think of drone. This record kind of is but really isn’t if that makes sense. The sound on Grapes is more carefully constructed that your average drone record. It has the same vibe as a drone record but moves teh concept a couple of steps to the right but in saying that if you like your drone I recommend checking this guy out. Its stark yet somehow warm and as an aside, if you ever want to introduce a reluctant spouse to experimental music, this may be the record to play them.