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Oren Ambarchi & Jim O'Rourke
Behold Danny Riley , March 3rd, 2015 14:12

The metaphor of vision suggested by the title Behold serves as a useful way with which to consider this album's exploitation of the spaces between obscurity and accessibility. Over the course of two lengthy tracks, experimental mainstays Ambarchi and O'Rourke present a masterful exposition in control; concealing and foregrounding different sounds, pitching moments of abstraction against the delayed revelation of tangible musical ideas, bringing different textural, tonal and rhythmic themes in and out of focus.

Ambarchi, usually known for his exploratory guitar-mangling, largely limits himself to the drum kit on both tracks. His trademark alienation of traditional rock instrumentation extends into his percussive activities however, as he teases out rhythms from the insectoid metallic scratches of brushed cymbals. Along with the judicious deployment of a resonant kick drum, these create regular, high-paced, almost danceable rhythms around which O'Rourke weaves disconcerting electronic textures on 'One', seemingly edging the piece into the more abstract end of minimal techno.

The rhythms are the most tangible elements of the first piece, O'Rourke's distant and ominous tones creating a sonic backdrop that is both enticing and impenetrable. Amplifier crackle, contorted snatches of feedback, strangulated synth tones and baleful ambient washes all factor into this edge-of-hearing morass, whilst Ambarchi's percussion provides a driving rhythmic bedrock for the scene of abstraction. 'One' keeps the listener almost wholly in the dark, yet it's no less exciting for that.

'Two', on the other hand, presents an altogether brighter aural picture, with its light synth drones and burbling, spacious textural backdrops coming off like the emaciated ghost of synth-based krautrock. Around the three minute mark, things move into sharper focus: drones gather themselves, the scratchy metallic rhythms bring in a beat, and even a riff emerges. When it is subsequently harmonised, all bets are off: this is certainly the album's pop banger. A storming sense of build hastens the piece to a psychedelic meltdown, Ambarchi's trademark super-thick, glitch-screaming guitar sound precipitating an overwhelming crescendo. The murky aural abstraction of 'One' is converted to a heady combination of immersive drone and rhythm, creating a gloriously churning sound-in-itself workout.

Experimental music inevitably engenders pretentious music writing, yet when it's as good as Behold it creates a listening experience that altogether dwarfs any linguistic rationalisation. This is a record of light and shade, and one that demands your fullest immersion.