One of the many amazing aspects of music is that we all have a unique view on things. As listeners, the stuff we really like is as unique as our fingerprints. In the sea of musical options, most people have a pretty deep relationship with at least one song, group, sound or type of music. So making a piece of music that gives a sense that it’s actually representing a taste or glimpse of countless options becomes a gateway to some form of listening nirvana.
Hubris, from 2016, remains one of the grooviest and most exhilarating listens ever. With Live Hubris, crazily, we actually momentarily thought it wasn’t anything to get excited about – simply as the studio version we know and love, was so perfect!
We quickly came to our senses.
Live Hubris fades in and a brain tickling detail is immediately apparent. Donna Summer’s disco, The Orb, Kraftwerk bending into Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4. The music is pulsing forward, dragging you in as the mesh of sound bellows and warps. There is a grid under all of this but everything in the sound is continually adapting and hallucinating, in infinite reimaginings.
The thought occurs early on, the way this is all being placed together is with outrageous precision. Different players locked into this stream of music. Layers and layers of some hyper animation, moving through every version of itself in sequence, like a sonic Pantone chart.
Part 1 is a tense wireframe of Konrad Sprenger’s electronics with 7 electric guitars, processed flute and, eventually Jim O’Rourke beaming in on intergalactic grade guitar synth. The whole thing opening out like the most psychedelic night club vibe ever…
Part 2 is a brief watery interlude, guitar strummed fragments and a mangle of words tied in knots…
Part 3 snaps back into a live drummed jazzier version of Part 1. Afrobeat, the kosmic groove of Black Satin phase Miles Davis, the drive of laser focussed minimalism made into pure magic. The stretched-out funk, organ vibes that are half soulful, half drone, the wailing sax, the delirium of the beat twisting into an endlessly expanding high.
Live Hubris is the document of a performance at London’s Café Oto as part of celebration of both Ambarchi’s 50th and his label Black Truffle’s 10th birthdays… A conceptual cocktail bringing together Johan Berthling, François J Bonnet, crys cole, Mats Gustafsson, Will Guthrie, Eiko Ishibashi, Jim O’Rourke, Francis Plagne, Julia Reidy, James Rushford, Adam Scheflan, Konrad Sprenger, Joe Talia, and Andreas Werliin, all folded and stitched into Ambarchi’s overall vision.
Far from Live Hubris being some standard reimagining of the studio version, Live Hubris actually ends up being even more impressive than the original. Music built from so many moving parts and personalities should probably cave in under the pressure but somehow it feels like a single exacting musical phenomenon. A string of possibilities, a sequence of ordered chaos, a complete mastery of propulsive mind-expanding sound.
Hubris, Hubris Variation and Hubris Variation Parts 2 & 3 (extended rhythmic excursions by Ricardo Villalobos), and now Live Hubris, round off this staggering trajectory in music. Perhaps Hubris as the overall title might feel a little self-effacing but Ambarchi has visualised a piece of music that actually does it all without ever overstretching itself – this is golden section stuff. The blending of intoxicating rhythms and beats, wild improvisation, live and processed elements, in person and remote… experimental, but never less than breath-taking and entertaining.
The entire Hubris project highlights the idea at the core of all of this is light years ahead of much else. Whilst in the broadest sense, Live Hubris is a revisit of something we already know intimately, it’s actually insanely potent in its own right. Whilst this album appeared very late in the year, it’s instantly one of the highlights of 2021…
Play as loud as your neighbours will allow.
Live Hubris is out 10 December on pink viny! and digitally on Black Truffle Records