Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin


A collaboration between guitarist Oren Ambarchi, drummer Andreas Werliin, and bassist Johan Berthling proves mind-expanding for Daryl Worthington

I’m walking with my headphones on. It’s not the best context to hear this music but needs must. What starts with a twinkly loop rapidly escalates. Andreas Werliin’s drums swirl while Johan Berthling’s bass hovers across the beat. Oren Ambarchi’s guitar shimmers ominously in the background, sounding like a fried Hammond organ rather than six strings. My stride quickens even though the bpm of ‘II’, the second track on the trio’s new album Ghosted, doesn’t. The music reaches towards an ever deferred crescendo. As my pace accelerates, I lose awareness of my surroundings. Ambarchi’s guitar suddenly snaps into focus. It rises into a squeal. The intensity ascends. And then… Nothing.

I’m back to reality with almost violent effect. The track wasn’t meant to stop. Something’s gone wrong and my ancient mp3 player has reset itself. An accident that brings into clarity that this album needs to play uninterrupted to really do its magic. The trio explore the relationship between repetition and difference that’s long been a fascination in exploratory music, creating something that, disorientatingly, sounds equal parts quantized and free-flowing.

The outline of a motorik pulse drives the first two tracks, but Ambarchi, Berthling and Werliin unearth colourful fluctuations from rigid rhythms. As if they’re teasing at just how much they can shuffle within a precariously balanced structure before knocking it over. There’s hints of TNT-era Tortoise throughout as repetitive phrases dance through jazzy variation. But the trio feel more interested in embracing rather than relieving tension. The tracks come across like sonic Rubik’s cubes, exploring the possible permutations of a confined structure.

Ambarchi’s guitar playing is on wonderfully nuanced form here, but the rhythm section hits quantum mechanical levels of intrigue. Berthling and Werliin’s unique interaction is clearest on ‘III’. The album’s longest piece, it affords them the duration needed for the cumulative effect to take hold. Berthling’s bass is a knotted loop of notes, full of constantly resetting momentum. Werliin’s drums scatter and skip through the tangle, growing in intensity as they find ever more microscopic gaps to shape with rhythm.

I read somewhere once that as maps get more accurate, borders get longer; the once comparatively straight lines getting more convoluted as detail increases. I don’t know if that’s true, but something similar happens here as the trio stretch grooves and find new spaces to fill. Ghosted is a record which depends on its cumulative effect. And in doing so, it reveals there’s the potential to find endless movement in even the most rigid structures.

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