xperimental guitarist Oren Ambarchi is one of the avant-garde’s most ambitious musical chameleons. His discography includes gorgeous ambient drones, abrasive electronic soundscapes, and improv clicks and pops, among many other styles of fringe music. He even appears on the new Sunn 0))) album. However, through the wide array of output, Ambarchi always utilizes the familiar six stringed instrument as his source—albeit modified and amended beyond recognition. Triste, originally released as an LP only in 2003, is no exception, as Southern Lord, a label well-versed in doom and black metal, applies Ambarchi’s minimal palette to CD form.
Triste, itself, is an excerpt of 40 minutes from a live set that Ambarchi performed in 2001. Separated into two tracks, the first is a very slow moving accumulation of gentle bass swells that emphasize the attack and decay of each sound into silence. The track sets a strong precedent that approximates the familiar maxim that less is more. Unsurprisingly—and like most of Ambarchi’s music—it is best heard through headphones with his deep, resonant notes hanging between the stillness and tranquility of silence. For how spare it is, the track is incredibly moving as every subtle change and alteration in the slowly accumulating tones takes on heavy emotional weight.
The second half of Triste is more reminiscent of his recent standout album released on Touch, Grapes of the Estate. Modulated bass sounds are again the highlight on this track, but they are more obviously processed into a dark, percussive instrument that creaks and crackles as the sounds begin to layer on top of one another. Whereas the first track remained patient and minimal throughout its duration, this composition, after several minutes, becomes a bit more chaotic with sine waves, mixer feedback and audible scrapes and clicks. As the track closes at 19 minutes, it has grown and evolved many times over, with noise and feedback now occupying much of the sound’s foundation.
Triste is then rounded out by two shorter remixes and reconfigurations by Tom Recchion that feature revolving melodies plucked from Ambarchi’s compositions coupled with droning layers of sound floating in and out of the periphery. Recchion’s contributions to Triste are compelling in their own right, but seem more like extraneous reflections after hearing Ambarchi’s original compositions. Much more appropriately, the original LP included an additional 7” with Recchion’s tracks—a method that seems both self-inclusive and an apt accompaniment to Triste.
Although not quite as beautifully packaged as the 220 gram vinyl version first issued on Idea Records, Triste as a compact disc offers sparkling clear production of Ambarchi’s manipulated guitar notes. Hearing every nuance and subtlety is really the key to enjoying Triste as this disc not only adds yet another dimension to Ambarchi’s extensive discography, but holds a tremendously amount of gorgeous music and silence in its four tracks.
Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2005-11-17