Oren Ambarchi has always had a deep love of Brazilian music. Simian Angel is a spicy release and features Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista. Baptista has been involved in music for a long time and continues to be a key part of the Downtown scene, collaborating with the likes of John Zorn, Robert Palmer, and Herbie Hancock. Ambarchi has a flair for the flamboyant, and Simian Angel burns with intelligent, well-utilised, and tasty rhythms.
On ‘Palm Sugar Candy’, electronic tones ride a straight line while the smoky percussion blazes all around. In seductive fashion, the music transfixes the listener, with sizzling rhythms emanating from and then flowing out of the inner voice and into the outer, instrumental source, using traditional Brazilian percussive instruments in shaping new and unexplored avenues of sound. The staccato fire and stop-start vocalisations keep the momentum going while Ambarchi’s exotic guitar drips with experimental, electronic processing, his tone going beyond all traditional recognition and changing its colours to incorporate a vibrant and bright South American dialect.
Rhythms come and go, changing multiple times over the space of a track, but the vibe is remarkably consistent. To some extent, Ambarchi has planned things through, but the rhythms have a loose discipline. A lot of Simian Angel has the feel of aleatory music, with elements of random choice and moments of unscripted magic tossed into the mix, but the percussion also holds it all together, as if it were always meant to be this way.
Ambarchi’s prime focus is a return to the electric guitar, which is especially pronounced and all the more welcome after a trilogy of rhythm exploration (Sagittarian Domain in 2012, Quixotism in 2014, and Hubris in 2016). The guitar touches the exotic: a sun-dazzled and open sound. It’s exciting without being too frenetic, and it’s refreshing in its pursuit of bright, humid sounds. Ambarchi pulls it all together with great finesse, the rhythms giving life to the sound, sustaining it with a steady thumping, a heartbeat pumping through the music and a pulse on Brazil.