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Aural Pleasure Review

Oren Ambarchi: 'Audience of One'

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So far, many of the best releases of 2012 have found pop artists stretching the limits of traditional songcraft through experimental techniques. Oren Ambarchi's latest has somewhat of a reverse effect. Audience of One features a well-established experimental composer subverting his signature sound by incorporating pop influences and a wider instrumental palette than seen on any of his previous albums. Over four tracks, Ambarchi moves from pastoral folk to epic droning free jazz to elegant ambiance and, finally, to a Jim O'Rourke-esque reinvention of a Kiss song. With such an eclectic mix of styles one would expect this album to be a schizophrenic mess but, instead, Audience of One is surprisingly consistent and tasteful. Opener "Salt" is a heartbreaking pop song that sounds like the kind of music Bon Iver should be making. "Knots" is a 33-minute workout carried by skittering drums, mystical orchestration, and several impassioned solos from Ambarchi. "Passage" and "Fractured Mirror" are two very different exercises in subtlety that masterfully segue into one other. At only four songs, Audience of One can seem too short at first, but when an album leaves you longing for more — and begs for immediate re-listening — it's doing something right.  

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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