Whilst it’s a term that often induces sniggering – supergroups can, in fact, be the real deal. Think of an artist that you’d get excited about hearing something new by, or the chance to see live. For us at OBLADADA, the triple headed monster that is Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi and Jim O’Rourke, spectacularly meets that criteria. A fact only re-enforced by the nerdy reality that we already have and regularly immerse ourselves in the literally weeks’ worth of music by each of them, in infinite configurations.
One of the few consistent elements with the trio is the hugely unwieldy title and odd spacing of Each side has a depth of 5 seconds A polka dot pattern in horizontal array A flickering that moves vertically and reads like a line about Tony Conrad’s strobing masterpiece The Flicker . Normally the trio’s live documents position the players like some twisted take on a rocking power trio, Haino and the shamanic frontman, Ambarchi on mind popping percussive duties and O’Rourke somewhere in-between wearing various hats and often a mustard cardigan. Each time, a delight in all the wild rippling and telepathic shitstorms that their playing births. But this time, for their 10th album, the palette they draw from is much narrower.
In fact, all three contributions this time grow out of a mainly electronic set-up, with Haino on electronics, drum machine and suona (a Chinese double-reed horn), O’Rourke on synth, and Ambarchi on pedal steel and electronics.
The 17 minute Introduction feels like it grows out the excavated underwiring’s of Gastr del Sol’s epic Hello Spiral. An organ drone suspended in zero gravity as clicking and bubbling slowly growing noisier and more spatial. The piece eventually feels like being sucked down into some rainy metallic sonic pipe as new weird edges continually slide and tumble into the foreground.
Side 2 is filled with the 21 minutes of Part I, II and III and again it’s another old favourite that somehow looms into view. Part I evolves around Haino’s suona nestling in a bed of wide screen electronic smears that transport us right back to Faust’s textural razor blade masterpiece Rein. Haino, having played on that record and O’Rourke having constructed and produced the whole album.
Eventually everything fans out in beautiful glassy pools of synth before the mangled metallic warping of Part II blearily expands into half formed weirdness. Out of nowhere drums and electronic spirals duel in some new form of alien blues, slowly but spectacularly tearing itself apart in whooshing undercurrents. Part III spans the last few minutes with rain splattered vectors and fragments, somehow advancing and receding on the same spot.
It’s never actually clear what’s going on but after seriously looping this album for literally days at a time, the whole thing pulls you into its numerous, strangely detailed voids. Several chunks of this latest live collaboration might almost feel ambient in nature but there’s somehow always this sense of gravity as you glide along the razor’s edge, only millimetres above chaotic magma.
Each side has a depth of 5 seconds A polka dot pattern in horizontal array A flickering that moves vertically is another essential listen from three stunning minds. Whilst the apparent threat of total meltdown is inherent in every atom of sound, a strange overall restraint is absolutely brain tickling. Whether this album is approached as the 10th album the trio have performed together or just another layer in their vast discographies, this 38-minute slab of glory, captured live no less, feels reassuringly anchored in the past but takes our brains to yet another new vantage point in their incredible and unique universe.
Each side has a depth of 5 seconds A polka dot pattern in horizontal array A flickering that moves vertically is available on vinyl and digitally here