My experience in Stretch Arm Strong really messed me up. I felt I had compromised my song writing by letting Dean's style influence me too much. So I quit playing music for three years. In November of '95 I started jamming with Eric Hoffman as a duo. Eric lived in the same building as me so it had to happen eventually. At first we were working on some new songs I had written but then we took it in a totally different direction. We were listening to a lot of jazz at the time...which led to free-jazz. Eric and I started adding some improvised sections in the middle of our songs, then it evolved to improvisation only. Eric also started playing synthesizer and trumpet and less and less drums. To fill out the sound I developed a technique using sampler pedals where I'd layer multiple drones upon my playing. The ambibat sound started to take shape.
After almost a year playing together as a duo we felt confident in this new style to put ads in the New York Press looking for like-minded people. We jammed with a bunch of weirdos – 'cause that's the kind of people this music attracts – until we clicked with Blaise Siwula, a veteran in the experimental improv scene. Blaise recommended we jam with Chris Altenhoff, a bass player he played with in the space-rock band Alien Planetscapes. And that was ambibat.
We jammed for a few months...feeling each other out...improvising. Eric and Chris adopted my sampler technique on bass and synth so at times it sounded like there were 20 musicians in ambibat. We then booked a bunch of shows at places like Knitting Factory, Pyramid, Spiral, Acme Underground, CB's Gallery, and ABC No-Rio. Blaise is the curator for C.O.M.A. (Creative Out Music Association), a weekly Sunday night series dedicated to improvised music at ABC No-Rio...so we played there a lot.
In 1998, ambibat went into the studio and recorded our self-titled CD. We basically improvised for four hours straight, until the engineer ran out of tape. We pulled the best moments and mixed them down. It's a moment in time...that's what improvisation is all about. I shopped it around a little...got some good response...until Loud Dust Recordings agreed to distribute a hand full for a limited time. I never saw a dime – if they sold any at all – and I completely forgot about it. That is until I recently did a quick Google search for ambibat... Seems as if they're still hawking it, and even re-released it on March 22, 2005. It's on iTunes, Amazon, emusic, napster, and a slew of other music sites – you can even get ambibat in ringtones. I may need to speak to a lawyer.
[DOWNLOAD] ambibat (1998)
01- Yellow Liquid, Red Lava
02- This Is My Robot
04- When We Knew How To Fly
05- Pylon Transmission
06- A Long Way From Home
07- Cascade Valley
08- The Ketchup Episode
09- Linstead Lane/Spring
11- Denouement [A Simple Conversation]
12- I Leave The 20th Century With No Regrets
In 2000, Eric left the band. A few things factored into his departure... Eric always liked the mellow ambient/drone side of ambibat, but at that time I was embracing the loud abrasive side of my guitar playing, so he became disenchanted. The FrankenHöff CD sessions were probably a big factor, too. During ambibat, Eric and I continued to work together as FrankenHöff (which I'll get to at a later date) and we were working on a FrankenHöff CD. The recording process was very time consuming and costly, so that got on his nerves. But probably the main reason Eric left ambibat was Earl Pickens. Billy Kelly started playing open mic nights around the city as Earl Pickens and was looking to form a band. Eric got the call and went country. (I'll get to Earl at a later date, too.)
ambibat (mach II)
Eric's departure didn't stop ambibat. We quickly filled his position with Doug Walker on arp odyssey synthesizer. Doug was in Alien Planetscapes with Chris and Blaise, and he was always at our shows anyway so he was a good fit. Doug had a more aggressive approach to his playing than Eric so ambibat became darker and heavier – which was the direction I wanted to go in.
In 2001, I took the new ambibat into the studio to record our second album, Fresh Blood – the title having a double meaning...Doug being the new blood in the band...and a play off the album cover art I drew when I was 7 years old. The album is pretty heavy and I'm very proud of it. I'm particularly pleased with my guitar playing because I was truly playing free. On the first CD I was still relying heavily on my sampler pedals as a crutch (but don't get me wrong, there's plenty of beautiful moments on that recording). I'd say Fresh Blood is as good, if not better, than anything I heard come out of the experimental improv scene...if I may be so bold. My only wish is that Eric played drums on it. I also wish I followed through and promoted it a little. But I soon started working on Bellmore: The Unscene and my interest in playing experimental music waned.
[DOWNLOAD] ambibat - Fresh Blood (2001)
01- The Nightmare Begins
02- Full Moon
04- Prowling The Midnight Walker
05- Through The Fog
07- Pray Prey
08- Eyes In The Dark
09- Synapse Relapse
10- Cold Sweats
Here's a video I made on ambibat for the Bellmore: The Unscene - Extras DVD. Joe Kollar starts things off...then Eric Hoffman talks a little about his time in ambibat...followed by Matt Bianco, Mike Walch and Jim Burns. I think Walch best explains the ambibat experience...
Frank Fusco - guitar, turntable/tape deck/radio, electronics
Eric Hoffman - drums, synthesizer, trumpet, recorder, electronics ('96-'00)
Chris Altenhoff - bass, arp odyssey, tapes, electronics
Blaise Siwula - saxophone, reeds, mandolin, laptop
Doug Walker - arp odyssey ('00-'01)
(R.I.P. Doug Walker 4/4/06)