Oren Ambarchi — Hubris (2016, Editions Mego)
I was on the train to Glasgow to see the solo wonder from down under, Oren Ambarchi, when I received an e-mail: Air France had lost his gear and his show was cancelled. Perhaps the brilliance of his latest release makes up for it. Oren Ambarchi’s newest LP from Editions Mego is worlds away from the serene Grapes from the Estate or his work on Touch Music. Continuing along the sonic lines of 2014’s Quixotism, Hubris sees Ambarchi bring a host of notable collaborators into the fold (Arto Lindsay, Jim O’Rourke, et al.). “Hubris, Pt. 1” is Autobahn for a new generation. In our age of cultural over-saturation and bastardization, Ambarchi’s work will not have the same degree of impact; a shame, because the opener is no kosmiche pastiche — it’s all its own and demonstrates a rich palette of music making by the Australian and his chosen ensemble. It magisterially combines many of the traits of Kraftwerk’s 1 and 2 with the aforementioned Autobahn and is soothingly repetitive and highly soporific in its 22 minutes of glory. “Hubris, Pt. 2” is the pop tune of the album. Light-hearted, delayed guitar mixes with chopped up fragments of a conversation, just barely audible. Musically, one could easily envision this track as an OK Computer outtake. Fortunately, Ambarchi realizes there’s nothing doing in extending this tune unnecessarily and ends it in under two minutes. The track’s brevity keeps it interesting and places it into stark relief against the album’s two longer movements. If “Pt. 1” is a merger of early/later Kraftwerk, “Hubris, Pt. 3” is the sound of those records being physically melted together. The song’s initial, innocuous musings morph into an electrified cyclone of neo-psychedelia. Ambarchi shows his competence as an arranger on top of an ensemble whose chemistry is nothing short of remarkable. While his back catalogue is superb, the direction Oren Ambarchi has set off in makes for some equally stellar listening.