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

You don’t need to be a mathematician to know that two is more than one. This axiom applies to the music on Ghosted II. 2022’s Ghosted, the first recording by Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin, was a study of rhythm suspended before texture. On each of its four numbered tracks, the trio established a groove, which permutated minimally while Ambarchi’s un-guitar-like guitar sounds oozed up from the bottom of the mix. This time, the number of tracks is the same, but their designations are spelled out in Swedish rather than written as Roman numerals, which reflects the country of origin of the other two members of the group.

But each element of each track projects from the speakers with more power and presence. Berthling holds the center like a sonic Maginot line, plucking figures on either an acoustic or electric instrument (one per track, naturally) that simply will not be budged. If he adds even one note to his pattern, you sense it like you’d sense the Earth shifting on its axis. Since there’s no going through him, Werliin drums around him, spinning elaborate variations on that same groove, and then, for good measure, adding some hand drums. Tune into him and you might fail to notice the rest of the music, so involving are his rhythmic permutations.

Once more, Ambarchi feeds his guitar through a signal chain that yields sounds more like a Hammond organ or a synthesizer. But there’s more nuance to the surfaces and interweaving of his billowing walls of tone and thickets of flicker, and he even gives in to the temptation to let his guitar be a guitar, stacking layer upon layer of strummed string sounds on “Fyra” (that’s “IIII” for you non-Swedes). Speak not of sophomore slumps; Ghosted II exceeds its already swell predecessor in nearly every way. [Drag City]

—Bill Meyer