Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Amplifier: " Echo Street"

The British quartet who I have heard described as "Space Rock" has just delievered a rather ambitious album of smooth Pink Floyd influenced prog. In the days before Dream Theater, the genre had a broader definition and prog was more than just an excercise in poly rythmic dexterity, bands like The Moody Blues amd Emerson Lake and Palmer, fell under this banner. This is not to say what Amplifier does is limited to looking back into retro in fact I think they can find modern peers alongside Porcupine Tree, Dredg, Anathema or Opeth's most recent work.

The opening soundscape to "the Wheel" hovers before the interstellar overdrive of the song progresses to a place where the guitars weave around the song while allowing for the vocals to breathe in the spotlight. I think once upon a time there's sections of this album that might have been classified as metal but given the extreme metal has now gone to.

The subtle vocal hooks work in conjunction with sections of guitar solos as a sonic swathe rather than chewing the scenery to the picture the band has painted. The drummer's accents lend the music more of an edge as well. The vocals are allowed the luxury of having the songs built around their melodies rather than just being the after thought for a cool riff.

The band carries enough melancholy to satisfy me and ample sense of dynamics within the varied shades of gray. Echo Street as a whole is very well produced , with an excellent attention to details in placement of everything in the mix. They have a very balanced guitar tone, their clean channels manipulate the effects well and don't sound awkward when the distortion kicks in. The guitars keep a song like "Extra Vehicular" moving when the vocals float along in languid relaxation.

The vocals are generally placed in a delicate midrange, Sel Balamir is competent, but not a belter by any means. He knows where his comfortable range is and doesn't test it's bounds,nor does shift into a more forceful rock or metal voice,which a band like Opeth does.

Amplifier does shift into a distorted punch,appealing to a rock audience rather than indie rock bands the emphasis is more on the ambiance like Sigur Rios or even Spirtiualized. The guys are swinging for the back row at the Hammersmith Oden rather going for some sort of elusive indie cred. Despite the reflective quality to the lyrical content much like post-Darkside Floyd focus is everything being big rather than trying to keep up with thrift sore irony.

Towards the albums second half their are more strummed guitar patterns with less frequent heavy accents on the distorted side of things , giving a more uniform and singular focus to those songs, with the seventies feel to the ballad, shows their more Crosby , Stills and Nash side. While those influences can be felt through out the album I think they are best tempered with their more rock sensibilities. Overall for a thinking man's prog, this album would be a great soundtrack to any pot smoking on rainy afternoon.

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