crys cole and Oren Ambarchi – Hotel Record (2017)
Note: This is slightly modified and expanded review, originally published by SoundOhm
For many, the geography defying partnership of crys cole and Oren Ambarchi is the likely source of envy and awe – a creatively rigorous adventure in sound, egged forward by the romance they share. Ambarchi needs little introduction. Over the last 20 years, he has risen as a leading light of experimental and electroacoustic practice, as recognized for his collaborations with Jim O’Rourke, Keiji Haino, Sunn O))), Keith Rowe, Fire!, John Tilbury and countless others, as he is for his solo work. Cole, an artist focused on the constrained limits of sonic possibility, bridging gallery and musical contexts, has increasingly caught the attention of the international experimental music community over the last decade, running a parallel course in her dedication to collaborative and solo work. Following Sonja Henies vei 31, their debut from 2014, an album as much as an abstract diary centered around the erotic dimension of romantic intimacy, the duo is back with the stunning LP Hotel Record, a continuing exploration of their musical and romantic relationship, marked by the subtlety of investigation which has defined both of their careers.
Experimental musics tend to be consciously resistant to explicit narrative or location. When attempted, it is rarely done well, or retains the openness which make these territories so striking. These elements might be understood as experimental sound’s the most challenging and under-explored trajectories. They are the conceptual architectures of Hotel Record, and the root of its overwhelming success. Each of its four sides offers a distinct sound-world – subjective renderings of time, space, and geography through the lens of interplay, creative and romantic – locations in the hazy, amorphous expanse of the album’s whole. A world of introspection and cohesive diversity, modeled by the experiences of two constant travelers, forced to see themselves, each other, and their relationship, evolving against a shifting landscape.
Built from improbable combinations of the electronic and acoustic – sonic demarcations of time, place, and emotion, Hotel Record transcends any reductive idea of music. Through synthesis, electronics, field recording, acoustic instrumentation and voice, it is an installment in the duo’s aural diary. A sonic rendering of the transmogrification of self, falling within the undefinable realm between sound-art and and the outer boundaries of how musicality is understood. A rippling, profoundly intimate construction of texture and tone, so beautiful, surprising, and filled with humanity, that it overwhelms the ear.
cole and Ambarchi, with their remarkable talents combined, have done what few can – sidestepping the well trod signifiers and territorial expectations of experimental music, moving toward more poetic and challenging realms. They have described the known, in previously unknown ways. Out via Black Truffle, Hotel Record shows us what great art is all about – an unveiling of self, rigor of ideas, and adventure which never ends. Definitely an album which will send you excitedly flipping through its four sides for years to come. It’s available via SoundOhm (you can check out samples there) and from most adventurous record shops. Not to be missed by any count.