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Oren Ambarchi - Sagittarian Domain

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Artist: Oren Ambarchi

Album: Sagittarian Domain

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Aug. 30, 2012




When it was released earlier this year, Audience of One represented quite a departure for Oren Ambarchi. Even though his output has never been as homogeneous as people often think, the album was a definite outlier in Ambarchiís oeuvre. Itís still not clear if Audience of One marked a temporary detour for Ambarchi, or a complete change in course, but Sagittarian Domain proves that his last album wasnít simply a one-time dalliance with something new and different.

Sagittarian Domain casts Ambarchi as a one-man band. Heís the guitarist, bassist, drummer and vocalist on the albumís sole track, the only music maker until the strings come in. What begins with a glitchy guitar loop builds one ingredient at a time around a heavy, insistent groove. Blobs of synthesized Moog bass and crisp electric drums enter the mix, and rapidly claim their position at the core of Sagittarian Domain, creating the almost constant, almost consistent heartbeat that underpins the music. The first half of the piece is a soundtrack for a drive down the highway with the nighttime lights of the city visible on the horizon, cool and propulsive. Itís Ambarchiís most accessible music to date, but near the albumís midpoint, it becomes clear that thereís a storm moving in.

In the latter half of Sagittarian Domain, the atmospheric streaks of feedback and processed sound that previously provided color to the music become a more powerful presence alongside the newly introduced strings. The unflagging rhythm section is increasingly enveloped in a chaos of combustible distorted guitar and the alien swirl of the processed strings, fading into the background, but refusing to disappear. Only about 30 minutes in does Sagittarian Domain peel back its instrumentation to the simple guitar part that started it off, segueing into a slowly descending final movement that replaces the muscle and mayhem with gentle, mournful beauty. The finale comes out of nowhere, sharply altering the tone of the track as it flutters back to earth with the slow, seesaw motion of a falling feather.

Sagittarian Domain is an intriguing offering from Ambarchi, if not something with a great deal of potential for repeat success. The album is tightly composed and well constructed in its almost palindromic arc, but were Ambarchi to move toward this sort of thing full time, it would be a disappointment. One comes to expect something special from Ambarchi, and no matter how satisfying a listen it might be, Sagittarian Domain isnít up to par in terms of uniqueness. Ambarchiís best work, whatever its style, doesnít often sound like anyone else. The same canít quite be said here.

By Adam Strohm

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Audience of One

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