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OREN AMBARCHI – AMULET

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Australian experimental guitarist and sound designer Oren Ambarchi, he of many releases and collaborative ensembles, quietly released Amulet a few months ago. It’s a no frills, no-fi collage of iPhone recordings, presumably a mix of incidental samples and live performance (there are flashes of creepy “applause sign” clapping fragments and aimless chatter amid the sonic swirls). The Tapeworm has now released a second batch for your grubby mitts.

Ambarchi doesn’t really “play” a guitar as much as project it’s resonant body into the open air: his concern isn’t the production of sounds but the variability and malleability of structural acoustic properties within those sounds. He runs a few source notes through electronic interfaces, stratifying each tone into its component frequencies and timbres that are then reconstructed, juxtaposed, or artificially augmented in different ways. He diverts and refracts a small pool of sounds into itself, in essence exposing an echo chamber beneath the surface of what we hear as a guitar tone. As such, the cell phone, the electromagnetic encoder of speech patterns shot through space, is just about the perfect recording continuation of his live techniques.

The pieces, like my favorite ambient soundscapes, are open texts ready to receive imaginary narratives. The base sound of both sides is a sort of wind chime loop, sometimes muted like kitchen utensils, sometimes glassy and resonant. But the mood is ominous, full of claustrophobic humming like fake light in a windowless room. Pulses howl and moan with long tube overtones and growl with gurgling low-end waveforms. Some kid’s bike bell keeps ringing, heralding the freeing of these trapped souls with an earnest, no-blinking smile. The record is a very tense circling of a sonic whirlpool, something dire lurking beneath a clean surface.

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