Personnel: Stephanie Lake, Marnie Palomares, Joseph Simons, Harriet Ritchie, Alisdair Macindoe (dancer).
Audio Mixers: Joe Talia; Oren Ambarchi; Robin Fox.
Recording information: Head Gap Studios, Melbourne, Australia (02/2011).
Photographer: Jeff Busby.
Experimental guitarist/composer Oren Ambarchi and purveyor of cold electronic sounds Robin Fox came together in Melbourne, Australia in early 2011 to collaborate with dance company Chunky Move, soundtracking their otherworldly production Connected. The performance saw dancers interacting with organic sculptural works, sometimes ominously suspended midair. Over the course of the performance, the dancers found themselves wrapped in the sculptures' menacing tentacles, struggling for either escape or assimilation into the pieces. Connected, the resultant album of Ambarchi and Fox's work on the score for this piece, also ponders extremes of escape and submission. Fox's clinical electronics are minimal to the point of almost being test-tones at times, and the juxtaposition of Ambarchi's organic and often visceral guitar tones creates a foreboding sway throughout the album. Never is Connected menacing or horrified, but its sounds pace nervously between abstract noise, patient bell tones, and tensely narrative-obscured chord progressions. The album flows seamlessly between its presentation of moods. Connected begins with the building dread of the nine-minute "Standing Mandala," its sharp melodic pulses growing into harsh static before an abrupt end. Moments later a wall of ragged, drifty guitar chords wanders through understated electronics and cymbal washes on "Game of Two" before melting naturally into the white-noise firestorm of "Trios." Removed from the dance pieces it soundtracks, Connected takes on its own life. With the same restlessness that flows through Neil Young's lonely desert chords on the Dead Man soundtrack or the patient observation that marks the earliest experimental electronic music, Ambarchi and Fox come together here with laser-beam precision and focus. The collaborators' desperate signature sounds align with enough space, consideration, and restraint to become something bigger than the sum of their parts. Connected is a musical study of tension, anxiety, release, and relief, all communicated in a manner simultaneously subtle and complex. Besides being an impressive melding of unlikely worlds, the five pieces here are transcendently beautiful, and essential listening for a fan of either player or any sound art enthusiast. ~ Fred Thomas