The driving force behind the drum/noise project BEAST is Daniel Menche, though he is often accompanied by Joe Preston and John Haughm. Both Menche and Preston have been active in the experimental scene in the Pacific Northwest for many years. Menche has released a ton of material under his own name, much of it based in field recordings and other ambient noise. He recently put out a split release with William Fowler Collins on Sige Records. Use of natural recordings in Menche’s work goes all the way back to his earliest releases, although the processing techniques have shifted over time. Preston appeared on some of the earliest releases from Earth and Melvins and contributed to one of my favorite records of all time, Altar from Sunn O))) and Boris. Not to be outdone, Haughm is a member of Agalloch and has a few split releases with Matthias Grassow, another favorite here at Orion’s Bastard.
Oren Ambarchi began playing jazz in his native Australia in the mid-1980s as a percussionist, active in the free jazz scene in Sydney. At a session he began messing around with a guitar and from then on it has become a staple in his solo releases and live performances. He described his relationship with the instrument in an interview with Australia Adlib:
I picked it up and starting hitting it with drumsticks and using it in whatever way I wanted to use it in, and one thing led to another. I’m glad I wasn’t trained. I’ve always loved rock music, I grew up listening to pop and rock, so that was in my mind, but I’ve also been interested in electronics. I never wanted to learn to play it properly, it was an object as much as an instrument.
The drive to integrate other electronics with his guitar works and an overall interest in experimentation can be heard on one of his early releases from 1999, Insulation. A shared interest in improvisation and experimentally-driven approaches to composition has led to collaborations with many notable experimental artists like Keith Rowe, Otomo Yoshihide, Jim O’Rourke, and the drone doom duo Sunn O))).
He has collaborated with Sunn O))) on a number of occasions beginning with Black One in 2005. The story goes that Stephen O’Malley was DJing in New York and played Ambarchi’s track Corkscrew and it set off the fire alarm at the venue, prompting O’Malley to reach out and insist on a collaboration. Ambarchi described the artistic relationship between himself, O’Malley, and Greg Anderson–the other half of Sunn O)))–in an interview with Wire magazine:
It’s great being able to work with Stephen and Greg and in some ways doing exactly what I would do in a solo context. However with Sunn O))) I get to do it in a completely different context, to a different audience, and using a much bigger backline. Since I’ve been working with them my solo work has become much slower, lower in the frequency spectrum and much more physical, especially when I perform live. Since I began working with Sunn O))) I’ve learnt a lot about sound pressure, resonance and feedback and how pleasurable it can be to bathe in physical soundwaves.
Sagittarian Domain was released in 2012 on Editions Mego. He’s joined on the release by cellist Judith Hamann, violinist Elizabeth Welsh, and violist James Rushford. You can read more about Ambarchi’s work on his website or peruse his extensive discography on Discogs.