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Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling - My Days Are Darker Than Your Nights

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Artist: Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling

Album: My Days Are Darker Than Your Nights

Label: Hapna

Review date: Jul. 22, 2003

Entrancing Drones

Comprised of a lone 31-minute drone piece, this gloomily titled album (it’s actually almost confrontational in its moroseness – as in "Oh yeah? Well, my days . . . " – exemplary of what’s been called the machismo of suffering) is actually quite delightful to listen to. Australian guitarist Oren Ambarchi began his career as a free improv drummer but several years back made the fortuitous switch to tabletop guitar and electronics. He’s already recorded several top-shelf albums, such as his duet with Keith Rowe (Flypaper, on Staubgold), the group recording Thumb (with Rowe, percussionist Robbie Avenaim, and electronicians Otomo Yoshihide and Sachiko M, on Grob), and the recent summit with Voice Crack and Günter Müller (Oystered, on Audiosphere).

When Ambarchi traveled to Sweden in early 2002, he met up with Hapna associate and member of Tape Johan Berthling for this duo session. It’s a real doozy, tripped out and intense from the very beginning. Ambarchi (using guitar and looping devices here) and Berthling (credited only to harmonium) set up layers upon layers of resonating frequencies, drones, oscillations, and thick clusters of sound. On the surface there is very little change or dynamism here. But this kind of improvisation is about anything but surfaces or conventional expectations.

At the smaller, more microscopic levels, change is constant: there is a subtle change in inflection, the adding or subtracting of a layer, a modulation in the overtone range, and so on. The music pulses, throbs, oscillates, and slowly envelops you. As it goes on, it gets louder and slightly more insistent, until you reach the point where you can’t imagine this music not playing. This sensation is captured well in the disc’s one-sheet which, instead of just cataloguing session specifics as these things normally do, contains a weird and unsettling first-person narrative: "The hours passed slowly. I looked out the window, the wind played with the leaves. Remembrance of actual experience was still rare, like driftwood in a river of time and evasive possible connections."

The verbal accompaniment is probably unnecessary, but the feeling of drifting is certainly accurate when listening to this My Days Are Darker Than Your Nights. It bewitches. It will draw you in. Let it.

By Jason Bivins

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