Eminent avant-garde/experimental explorer Oren Ambarchi opens a rewarding new avenue to embrace the warmth and mystic psychedelia of Brazilian music with assistance from celebrated percussionist and Downtown luminary Cyro Baptista. Arriving just after Ambarchi’s 50th birthday, and Black Truffle's 10th, ‘Simian Angel’ sees him yoke back from the forward tilt of his rhythm-driven outings over the past decade in order to focus on his electric guitar playing, with utterly sublime results.
Keening sideways from the unyielding percussion of his last outing ‘Hubris’ , he divines a floating space that recalls the beautifully pensile cats cradle of his early classic ‘Grapes From The Estate’ , only this time with fleshlier, more inviting arrangements. The first half’s ’Palm Sugar Candy’ is pure star-gazing material, with Baptista’s hand-played, self-built percussion drawing us into a horizontal headspace while Ambarchi’s glowing notes gently colour the sky above. Ambarchi gradually opens up a glorious space between that dissonant murmuring and an awning, harmonic meridian, where a voice whispers into the space to gently recalibrate our depth perception, before seemingly turning his guitar into a MIDI-triggering aeolian harp in the piece’s spellbinding, levitating 2nd half.
’Simian Angel’ follows with a more gripping rhythmic pull from the twanging Berimbau, just one of myriad percussion mastered by Baptista (who has previously played with everyone from John Zorn to Derek Bailey, Herbie Hancock and Robert Palmer), before Ambarchi glydes into view like a chorus of the sighing Simian Angels, drawing the piece upwards into thin air, where his guitar melts into piano and columns of warm air carry distant vocals from below. The drums rejoin to mark the work’s final avian swoops in strokes and dashes, triggering MIDI keys in a beautifully colourful sort of jazz fusion call and response, located amid and above a subtropical canopy.
Arriving at the apparent apex of a long and sprawling career in which he's had countless collaborations and gone down a seemingly endless series of creative rabbit holes, 'Simian Angel’ is quite possibly Oren Ambarchi’s most open and generous album to date - a perfect entry point into, as well as highlight of, a recorded catalogue that over the course of more than twenty years has been one of the most unpredictable and rewarding in the game. Bravo.