Oren Ambarchi: Audience of One (Touch)
Guitarist and ambient experimenter Oren Ambarchi released his latest album of solo material on Touch in late January. He’s always been somewhat of a chameleon, shifting shapes and taking his hand to different styles and approaches freely across his broad repertoire. Under his own name, however, I’ve always associated Ambarchi with severe abstraction. In fact nearly everything he’s released on Touch has been fairly far removed from his guitarist roots, often processed and manipulated into glitchy computer abstractions or subtle drones. Audience of One is quite different, then, drawing perhaps inspiration from some of his other projects like the folk-tinged Sun. “Salt” starts off innocently enough with its light tones, but then Paul Duncan’s vocal breaks through loud and clear, recalling some of Benoît Pioulard’s free-folk songwriting. “Knots” is the centerpiece of the album, over a half-hour long jam consisting of guitar feedback and drones with a frenzied undercurrent of drumming and digital signal whine. The remaining two tracks are a breeze by comparison; “Passage” complements Ambarchi’s delicate guitar work with light piano, viola and voice, wordless yet human. The last track, “Fractured Mirror,” is a faithful cover of Ace Frehley’s instrumental closer from his first solo album in 1978. I’ll own up to ignorance; I’d never heard that track, and I’m not alone in this cover changing my perception of Kiss and Frehley in particular. It’s by far the most musical of the four, with bright, clear, melodic guitar over minimal electronic percussion, a heroic end to a rather unpredictable and surprising album.