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Friday, September 23, 2016

Oren Ambarchi / Stefano Pilia / Massimo Pupillo - Aithein (Karlrecords, 2016) ****

By Antonio Poscic

There is no rhythm, explicit or otherwise, on “Burn,” the first of the two long pieces that make up Aithein, the debut collaborative release by Oren Ambarchi, bassist extraordinaire and shaman Massimo Pupillo (Zu), and the hushed creative force of guitarist Stefano Pilia. Instead, it builds its inner tension with textural expansions and contractions, and through clashes of extreme sonic abstractions. In a way, the effectiveness of the fabric of this music is amplified by its simplicity. Shrieks try to come alive only to be maximized through reduction by endlessly processed and fed back guitars. Vast and bulbous sounds, wails, and screeches float like fragile bubbles in an abyss in which colossal beings communicate gently. The trio’s roars oscillate and reverberate, as if searching, trying to understand and learn, discovering their own dialect of Morse code. Almost unintentionally, the three musicians chisel out a transparent, elastic wall of sound—a byproduct of their exploration. It’s existence is sine qua non for music devoid of any perceptible buildup or climax point. Music that rather relies on constant and simultaneous creation and destruction, a process lost amidst a sense of desolate beauty. Near the end of the cut, one of the guitars will venture into what could be described as a field of accidental harmonies, while the other will try to pull it back in with grating, sawing sounds. It’s unfortunate that this poignant interplay is cut short when Pupillo’s bass starts to rumble a transition to the second part of the performance recorded live in Bologna in April 2015.

True to its name, “Shine” takes the patient glow of “Burn” and flares it up a thousand times, bringing it ever closer towards a painful explosion. It makes for a wonderfully contrasting half and evokes stills of darkness, light, and a certain dreadful inevitability from Danny Boyd’s film “Sunshine.” With Ambarchi moving from guitar to drums and percussion, “Bright” is delineated by a solid and at times very structured rhythm. It’s a driven improvisation that keeps rolling forward, towards the brightness, never looking back or even alluding to what came before it. The piece thus feels closer to conventional forms, but Pupillo and Pilia keep it from sounding anything but conventional by weaving abrasive textures around it. Their resonances are dynamic and loud, often reduced to short bursts of energy. While “Shine” progresses, a sense of urgency emerges and the tune starts to dissolve into shapes close to post-rock and drone. The crescendo that was hidden in plain sight, now slowly reveals its full glory as all of the sounds coalesce, forging a rocking whole.

A truly compelling album.