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Oren Ambarchi: Quixotism (Editions Mego)

Oren Ambarchi is an unpredictable artist, rarely content to stay in one place for very long. Fans of his early sublime ambient releases like Suspension were likely thrown for a loop by his bright folk-tinged songs as part of Sun, or the more angular percussion and space rock of his last Touch release, Audience of One. Quixotism is the culmination of a series of sessions Ambarchi’s embarked upon over the last few years with a variety of players in Europe, Japan, Australia, and the U.S., broken into 5 acts but ultimately intended to be experienced as one long whole. Part 1 begins so quietly that even when the volume loud, it’s faint. Ambarchi and his players craft a journey that starts from this small glimmer into something mechanical, repetitious, drawing nearer, nearer still, revealing its scale to be quite grand. And it makes sense considering that Ambarchi collaborated with a whole variety of players here, no longer working as a solitary entity. The most noteworthy addition to Quixotism is the ubiquity of Thomas Brinkmann, whose mechanical pulse provides the foundation for the entire work.

This provides the underpinning for the often more subtle bending string harmonics and drones provided by Ilan Volkov and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, adding palpable tension as the piece continues to expand. John Tilbury’s light flourishes of piano are just right, lending an almost cinematic flair (maybe because it brings to mind Michael Small’s creepy introduction to 1970’s Klute) to the proceedings. The other noteworthy aspect of the album is that it evolves and moves in rather varied and inspired directions. By the time the third act begins to syncopate against Brinkmann’s foundation, it takes on a more nimble personality supported by the addition of Matt Chamberlain’s drums and electronics, Jim O’Rourke’s synths, and, eventually, a more organic polyrhythmic sensibility adorned by master Japanese tabla player U-zhaan and strings by Eyvind Kang.

Quixotism reinforces Ambarchi’s reputation as an artist who lets his music unfold patiently and without limitations, transcending genres and styles and instead telling its own unique story with a beginning, middle, and end.

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