Boomkat Product Review:
With Oren Ambarchi on guitar, Chris Abrahams on piano and Robbie Avenaim on drums, 'Placelessness' is a testament to the trio's effortless collaboration, a free-flowing tide of tonality, texture and unexpected rhythm.
Ambarchi and Avenaim have been friends and collaborators for over 35 years, and they distinctly remember going to see The Necks together in the late '80s, being stunned by Abrahams' characteristically unique piano playing. It wasn't until 2004 that the trio managed to perform together, improvising at Ambarchi's own touring What Is Music? Festival. 'Placelessness' is their first studio album, two side-long pieces that demonstrate their knowledge of each other's strengths, their obsession with durational composition, and their boundless passion for experimentation.
The first side is split into three segments, with '1.1' led by Abrahams' instantly recognizable piano motifs. Ambarchi creeps in with subtle, elongated tones and gentle guitar licks, while Avenaim coaxes wavering scrapes from his extended kit that gradually splinter into minuscule glitches. These sounds become steadily more dense in the second segment, assembling into an unstable, pattering beat that sounds almost random until the drummer punctuates it with ride hits. Abrahams' piano almost melts away into Ambarchi's drones and Avenhaim's mechanical rattle - aided by his SARPS (semi automated robotic percussion system), that helps him break through the limitations of his instrument. And in the third segment the quasi robotic patter is couched by organ-like hums from Ambarchi that play us into the sunset.
Entirely improvised, the second piece is split into five chunks and immediately captures a different energy from its predecessor. Here, Abrahams' playing is rapid and florid, and Avenhaim accompanies with spirited, jazzy flurries that only occasionally betray their mechanical assistance. Ambarchi works on the mood itself, sculpting heaving drones that lift up Avenhaim's machine-gun kicks, matching their energy and dipping like broken oscillators. As the side evolves, Ambarchi's treatment becomes more orchestral, swelling to bring out the beauty from Abrahams' ornate runs. Avenhaim provides the dirt, rumbling and whirring and ratcheting up the tempo until it's just a wash of metal and skins.