Hence by Oren Ambarchi & Jim O’Rourke

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Oren Ambarchi & Jim O’Rourke w/U-zhaan
Hence Editions Mego (LP/DL)

Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi’s latest collaboration begins with a 10 minute jam that serves to clearly articulate the sonic palette that’ll be used throughout the rest of the album. There is a distinct ‘world-music’ vibe to the whole affair, an approach that points to some unspecified otherness and that, without perhaps meaning to, is entirely reminiscent of the signifier for general ‘foreignness’ used in so many lazy movie soundtracks. Though holding almost god-like status in their field, it is clear by now that the composers nonetheless have an exceedingly high tolerance for extended jam sessions, and here bring on board table player U-Zhann to add another layer of cultural and rythmic interest to the proceedings.

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The overall sound-world is fairly tame – the expected and faintly atonal twangs of guitar are punctuated by some bleeps and drones from a synthesiser, none of which inspires much interest – however, that may well be the point, given the inoffensive, trance-like aesthetic that the opener, ‘Hence One’ so clearly exudes. Once the limited, trope-heavy composition reaches its second half, things open up considerably – the tabla, at first subordinate to the other instrumentation, is given the opportunity to take on a more meaningful role, and the synths begin to explore timbral areas that cast the proceedings in a more dream-like state.  

The guitar holds prominence throughout, and it is perhaps a failing on my behalf that I cannot help but find it somewhat annoying in tone, a subjective concern that somewhat impedes my ability to engage with the rest of the music. Thankfully, the second track – imaginatively titled ‘Hence Two’ – is a far more subdued affair, in which the guitar takes on a subservient role to the synth, now leading things with a flurry of more caustic, bubbling tones. The tabla really comes into its own here, offering a wealth of rhythmic and tonal variation that helps to orientate the rest of the recording, and turns what might otherwise be a fairly laborious ‘study’ of electronic tonalities into something vaguely playful and fun.  

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Ultimately, your enjoyment of the album will no doubt depend whether the defined and not-entirely-original tools being welded are your sort of thing, especially considering that every instrument risks, in its way, flirting too forcefully with long-standing tropes. The synths are very ‘bleepy’, the guitars are very ‘twangy’ and the percussion can’t help but summon a new-age vibe that many will find to be a little too cheesy. If you can stomach these things, however, you’re liable to find an extremely competent couple of tracks that offer some well-rendered interplay between the elements at work. Available on November 23.

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