Essential New Music: Oren Ambarchi/Johan Berthling/Andreas Werliin’s “Ghosted”

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The title Ghosted is a bit of a red herring. It suggests absence, but the only time no one showed up is for the meeting where it was decided what the album’s tracks would be titled, which means that they were simply numbered. Otherwise, the music on Ghosted is all about presence.

This trio is the product of pre-existing partnerships. Guitarist Oren Ambarchi and bassist Johan Berthling have worked as a drone-oriented duo for 20 years. Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin have been members of the trio Fire! (which explores the convergence of free-jazz energy and motorik grooves) for more than a decade, during which time it has welcomed Ambarchi as a guest. Throughout Ghosted, elements of these associations weave together. 

From the start, Ghosted puts its good foot forward. The first sound you hear is Berthling’s bass, which locks into a pattern with guest Christer Bothén’s donso n’goni (a Malian stringed instrument). In short order, Werliin begins to lightly drum around that core groove, sometimes striking them in synch and others times strategically behind the beat. His quietness invites listeners to lean in, so that their ears meet Ambarchi’s flickering contributions somewhere near the back of the mix. He may be putting his hands on a guitar, but he’s putting its signal through a Leslie cabinet, which gives it an organ-like quality. 

After the first track, Bothén bows out, but the established method persists. Foregrounded rhythms mesmerize, lurking sounds beckon. The more you listen, the more you hear, and the more you hear, the more the music seems to slow down, creating the seductive paradox of motion begetting stasis.

—Bill Meyer

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