A metal label like Southern Lord, adventurous as it is, would at first seem an odd choice to license an album of minimalist soundscapes by composer/guitarist Oren Ambarchi. On his umpteenth solo set In the Pendulum’s Embrace (originally released on Touch in September), Ambarchi sends bells, piano, pitched percussion, strings, guitar, and glass harmonica rippling outward into eddies of looped sound. It’s a far cry from the droning feedback of Southern Lord’s flagship act Sunn0))) (with whom Ambarchi has toured), even further from the label’s roster of punishing black- and doom-metal bands. But there’s an intense psychic undertow to these three tracks that accesses “heavy” in a different but no less affecting way than pummeling drums and thunderous bottom end.
“Fever, a Warm Poison” creeps patiently through the threshold between analog and digital, with eerie tones from a glass harmonica resonating over skipping-record clicking and lethargic cymbal hits. Electric guitar issues a deathly twang — an evocation of the parched outback of Ambarchi’s native Australia, translated into the decaying Americana of Earth’s last two releases on Southern Lord. Layered string drones press deep into the psychic realm of Indian classical music on “Inamorata”; Ambarchi decorates “Trailing Moss in Mystic Glow” with cobwebs of untreated steel string guitar and wordless vocals, closing the album with its most human-sounding gestures.
On the surface, In the Pendulum’s Embrace feels like a minimalist record, but that’s only because of its deliberate pace and cyclical approach to development — every sound, once germinated, has its chance to take root or whither away over large expanses of time. Ambarchi creates worlds of texture that emerge as more and more detailed the closer they are examined.