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Two Guitars, One Thick Tone

Keith Rowe and Oren Ambarchi play a mix of guitar and electronics on Flypaper (Staubgold), an exhilaratingly stark album, if such a thing is possible. Their tandem playing has the randomness of field recordings, the spaciousness of great soundscapes and the give-and-take of substantive free improvisation. Flypaper is a pan-generational affair, teaming old-school avant-guitarist Rowe (b. 1952) with a guitarist of a younger generation, Ambarchi (b. 1969), who besides a rich resume of free/noise music has experience in today’s experimental pop-electronic realm, largely as a result of his association with the Touch label (which is home to, among others, Fennesz, who has done his part to make the electric guitar at home in the modern realm of the laptop-computer studio). Over the course of four tracks, “Flypaper I” through “Flypaper IV,” Rowe and Ambarchi tread rarified territory, eking out granular layers of dread and texture, and keeping to stoic rhythms that tend toward the ritual. Rowe can be a tough guitarist to love, because the sounds he himself loves are generally abrasive, and he seems bored by playing the same thing twice. That said, he’s more than happy to play the same thing — a shuddering low tone, a buzzy rasp — for minutes at a time, and to let that thing resolve on its own accord. Only a diehard fan could begin to imagine where he lets off and where Ambarchi comes in, so intimate is their deeply sensitive sense of ensemble and their weighty patience.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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