Review: Oren Ambarchi ‘Shebang’

Oren Ambarchi is an extraordinary musician. He has metal credentials through his work with experimental droners Sun O))) and Boris, but also the quirky energy of Deerhoof, possibly attributable to his work with (for a time) Sonic Youth guitarist Jim O’Rourke. Given that the no-wave strain of the avant-garde and metal are two musical worlds that don’t often combine especially well (with the exception of Sarattma’s excellent Escape Velocity earlier this year), this album was always going to be interesting.

Oren Ambarchi 'Shebang'

The key word to describe this album is evolution. Essentially this is one long piece of music that continuously morphs in colour and texture. Track one Shebang I begins with minimal, spritely, math-rock noodling and from there on new elements are gradually bought into the mix.

Gradually the guest musicians, which include BJ Cole, Sam Dunscomb, Chris Abrahams, Jim O’Rourke and Julia Reidy, enter and bring their voices into the swirling backdrop of bright, staccato polyrhythms.

Essentially this is one long piece of music that continuously morphs in colour and texture…

My personal favourite on this is the second track, Shebang II, that features some of the sounds that made Ghosted – a collaboration with Johan Berthing and Andreas Werliin, released earlier this year – so compelling. The bass particularly changes the ethos, one moment the double bass bounces off jazzy drum hits, but then this gives way to rubbery fretless licks and tropical synth notes, which bring a surprising amount of depth to the flowing fiddly percussion.

What’s more, a lot of the contributions on this album are improvised. Ambarchi has bragging rights about his own skills, but his friends do as well.  Amazingly, they did this all remotely. Ambarchi worked with producer Konrad Sprenger to knit together submitted contributions from across the world to make this album. Long distance production is nothing new – think Culted, but for improvisation that is so much about interaction and human contact, it’s a feat.

I do have a tendency to bang on about album cover art, however, if ever there was a time to do so it’s now: a multicoloured birthday cake is spot on, this album is colourful, layered and fun.

Label: Drag City
Band Links: Official | Bandcamp | Twitter

Scribed by: James Bullock