Horror, jazz and beats: is it murder jazz par excellence or stumbling in the dark?

- AMBIQ belongs somewhere on the periphery of witch house and free jazz, if they’d both been fed into a mechanised dub conspiracist, but you could easily just call it ambient down-tempo and then fold your arms.

This kind of discordant jazz can be amazing, challenging in the way of any obscure art form. All about interpretation and discovery, the imbuing of personal reflection, the participation of active listening. It’s one of those things that forces you to engage with the product.

The Berlin trio’s second release, unambiguously titled AMBIQ 2, wants to force its engagement in the way that Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees might, with a Lawnmower Man equivalent of blind corners, jump scares and general malevolent disconcertion, sincerely wanting to be sinister and discordantly unsettling, but never quite clearing the threshold. It is a continuously absorbing soundscape however, and the horrific thrust of it is very intriguing, though not necessarily compelling.

Somehow, its disparate chitterings never seem to congeal. Occasionally a track will flirt with melody, but they never feel in danger of becoming actual songs, more like a collection of sketched-out notes wandering around a border fence, telling stories about life on the inside of formal structure.

The Mother is the first track to attempt something like harmony and then spoils it with an awkward ghostly flute denouement. Mytroprill is probably the most vicious and overt track, progressing through a vaguely electro-industrial landscape, like the operational sound of a factory that makes laser pistols. Ephemera is like listening to robots make bird calls, and the final track, Consolation, is like wind chimes tinkling as you close out a yoga workshop in an abandoned factory.

Though each of the eleven tracks inhabits a unique soundscape, none of these examples are unique amongst themselves or necessarily even affect strongly differentiating aspects. The album feels scratched and adrift without much actual progression throughout the inside of the tracks, though, over time and under some headphones, the sinister nature of it all does begin to ebb and lift, if not outright infect.

AMBIQ is internally described as "More than the sum of its parts, a single organism with its own unique expressive vocabulary and perspective”, but you could tape a bunch of cats together and say the same thing. Most people wouldn’t be that brazen though, so it should be celebrated, and honestly, when it works, when you can ignore the flailing ball of fur and tape and feel the dark mechanical hand of discordant jazz stroking your rhythm stick, well then, maybe ambient down-tempo ain’t so bad.

- Nic Addenbrooke.

Album Details

Album Title: AMBIQ 2
Artist: AMBIQ
Record Label: arjunamusic