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Oren Ambarchi

Audience of One

(Touch; US: 31 Jan 2012; UK: 30 Jan 2012)

Australian multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi’s Audience of One opens with a rather stirring track called “Salt”. Featuring the confident vocals of Paul Duncan (Warm Ghost) double-tracked with falsetto, the tastefully minimal piece bloops along sweetly, eventually joined by a hint of violin. Yet, from there, the album takes a turn from which it does not recover.


The second track, “Knots”, is over a half-hour of random timbres that never really manages to congeal all its layers and strains of sound into a moment of clarity. It just pulses along for what seems like an eternity—26 straight minutes of quiet drumming and manipulated classical instrumentation with processed whines and whirrs, then seven minutes of sparse reflection and digital whipping. Granted, the sounds employed are in themselves dynamic and well recorded, but the overall lack of focus becomes exasperating after a while. You keep waiting for it to arrive at something substantial, and it just keeps moving along with no particular place to go.


Fortunately for the listener, after this tedious piece of self-indulgence, Audience of One picks up a bit. “Passage” is a lovely ambient track. Using sparse piano, pastoral vocals, a touch of strings and guitar, and garbled yet visceral crackling noises, the track maintains an interesting sense of progression throughout its seven minutes.


The album closes on an ethereal prog-pop take on “Fractured Mirror” by Ace Frehley (Kiss), which kind of summarizes the album. It’s a good idea, a keen recontextualization of rather absurd source material, but it is carried on for twice as long as it should, a full three minutes longer than the original. If this album could have received the editing it needed, it would have made for an extraordinary EP. As is, it’s like a high school buddy who comes to visit, then crashed on your couch until your better half makes you kick them out.

Rating:

Author of blurbs, curator of playlists, and booker of shows, Alan Ranta has been plugging away at that music writing and programming thing since 2004. His brutally honest critical opinion has appeared in such publications as Exclaim!, CBC Music, PopMatters and Tiny Mix Tapes, and has been enlisted to help judge the Polaris Music Prize, Pazz & Jop, and Juno Awards. Based in East Van, he graduated with a BFA in music from Simon Fraser University in 2012. He's also a social media plague, cat whisperer, socio-political haranguer, Canucks fan, and one of the last remaining cowboys, with a butt that won't quit.


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