Oren Ambarchi, Quixotism

Andy Battaglia

By Andy Battaglia

on 10.28.14 in Reviews

It’s hard to even hear Oren Ambarchi‘s Quixotism at the start. “Part 1″ opens with silence, and it’s not until about a minute in that the first strains of sound flow in from out of the void. They’re a series of electronic pulses, tight and repetitive, like something clattering in a factory. Other elements take their time to stir: mysteriously processed strings, knocks on what sounds like a meditation bell, some tinkling of piano. All of them are intensely and delicately introduced, like actors in a play, and once enlisted they begin to actively, affectingly commune.

A quiet kind of masterpiece

Quixotism is very much an album to be heard all the way through — no single song or isolated part holds much up for coveting on its own. All together, however, the five interlocking tracks cohere into a quiet kind of masterpiece. Ambarchi knows the ways of patience as an experimental musician at work with all manner of styles and sounds, and Quixotism calls on a striking list of collaborators. The clattering click-track at the base of it all is by German electronic artist Thomas Brinkmann; John Tilbury plays the piano; tablas come by way of the Japanese musician U-zhaan. Other components include synthesizer by Jim O’Rourke and strings by Evyind Kang.

It’s the way the parts are mixed, though, that gives Quixotism its power. The governing principle is one of precision and restraint, such that tiny incremental developments turn to high drama. See: the entrance of extra beats around 14:00 in “Part 1″; modulating electronics and cymbals that subtly summon minimal techno in “Part 3″; a woozy synth passage that suggests an old tape of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” left out in the sun; and so on. In his role as a percussionist but more importantly the mastermind of the collective as a whole, Ambarchi oversees each part and sinuously, meticulously mixes them together with the ear of a refined composer who also knows how to get in the middle and play.