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Oren Ambarchi / Günter Müller / Philip Samartzis - Strange Love

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Artist: Oren Ambarchi / Günter Müller / Philip Samartzis

Album: Strange Love

Label: For4Ears

Review date: Mar. 23, 2004

Günter Müller’s 2002 trip to Australia for the What Is Music? Festival was a fruitful one, resulting in this excellent recording for his own imprint as well as a previous meeting with Ambarchi and Voice Crack documented on Audiosphere. Of the two long tracks here, the opening “Cooler” was recorded live in Melbourne during that summer trip, while “Warmer” was assembled from the musicians’ various homes (and fashioned via an internet exchange of recordings). Müller’s aesthetic is incredibly refined at this point, with his iPod, minidisc, selected percussion and electronics used in a highly minimalist (that is to say, restrained) fashion. Along with festival organizer Oren Ambarchi (guitar and electronics) and electronician Philip Samartzis (the new voice for me), this is a trio dedicated to the arts of the long-form drone. But don’t think here of the gently lolling, tonally centered kind of drone as much as of the consistently boring (in the sense of drills, you dig) sounds of Sachiko M or Toshi Nakamura.

Intense and flinty sine tones are ground down again and again, subtly reshaped to reveal their nuance, and slowly framed by a wondrous array of textures or subliminal sonic hints. Like tone scientists rigorously studying the properties of a single sound, they layer, they shave away, they boil water, they drain and empty, and above all they burn. I don’t care that they implied a temperature for each piece; both are marked by a white-hot intensity, as of precision machinery at work, with each sound individually identifiable even as they blend to create a spectral fusion of sound. The intensity ratchets up on “Cooler” until eventually the sound just drips away like water.

The pieces thankfully don’t follow any predictable dramatic arc: they don’t just rise and fall, but are continually working at the tension between these two movements, creating ruptures amid any smooth surfaces previously generated or framing the most fractious moments (for example those using the found sounds and field recordings on “Warmer”) with a delicate lamination. Likewise the textural blends are never simply “rough” or “smooth,” but combinative and/or deconstructive to the point where such conventional descriptions become meaningless when bathed in the sound itself.

You’d never know from listening to it that the second piece was not recorded live since, from its opening great round entrace to its conclusion, it is focused and coherent. It’s more moody and ever so gently tranced out (you can actually discern Ambarchi’s guitar amid the buzz and oscillation). This is a really excellent meeting by some of today’s leading electro-acoustic improvisers.

By Jason Bivins

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