The Amazing emerged in 2009 with sunburnt folk and pensive psych rock, dripping in atmosphere and basking in nostalgia. Their tangled, fuzzed out guitars sought to resurrect icons like Nick Drake and Hendrix with the same dream-like magnetism. Their early recordings were undeniably pretty, even if their tranquil spell wore off far faster if you were already familiar with the acts they were pulling so heavily from. After a batch of enjoyable releases, a lengthy silence followed.
It wasn’t until the band returned with 2011’s Picture You – their sound blackened and heavy with feelings of depression – that their true power was apparent. The group had always been masters of mood, but Christoffer Gunrup’s detached murmur had more weight to it now that the band were playing in darker corners. Once again, the past was being reworked and reimagined; this time, the vast, cavernous indie rock of Red House Painters and the Cure was the insiration, but the arrangements that carried these influences had become elongated, more mesmerising, more emotional. The band’s three guitarists found ways to stretch out simple riffs with new ideas, the tracks unfolding and enveloping. This was a group using space to their advantage, both with the gloom their airy sound provided and in the patience it gave elegant builds.
‘Ambulance’ is a natural continuation from where ‘Picture You’ left off – gorgeous arrangements, bleak textures and abstract emotions are built into every song. The Amazing make effort not to overwork their material; the album was reportedly recorded in live sessions after few rehearsals, encouraging improvisation and spontaneity. The songs here feel alive and in the moment because of it, while the band’s chemistry and technical ability makes it so no track becomes stale despite the relatively stoic mood. Instrumentally, ‘Ambulance’ nails its smoky atmosphere. Warm bass, tingling acoustic and spacey electric guitar parts melt through one another, while Gunrup’s sharp piano stabs and militaristic drum patterns add bite to the mix. In the centre of it all are his whispered vocal, detached and withered. Though little can be deciphered, lyrically, the vague approach taken actually heighten’s the emotional impact; the listener is able to project their own feelings onto these absorbing tracks.
‘Tracks’ is perhaps the highpoint of the album. It begins with patient, foreboding waves of molten guitar, before careening into a full on jam. It’s music for driving alone at 3am, uplifting or aching, depending on the frame of mind you enter it in. Towards the back end, the song cools with crumbling chords and airy keys. On the album’s dying moments, the band shift back to delicate folk that’s just as dark as any other moment, but with a greater intimacy than their more reverb heavy material. On ‘Perfect Day For Shrimp’, the sharp finger-picking and unfurling richness remind of Ben Howard at his most ambitious. In a way, it presents the album’s most obvious flaw; the album never feels distinctive in its approach. Even its best moments evoke other artists and little in the way of its own personality. It mirrors the album cover: the band’s faces are obscured in a way that’s rich and certainly evocative, but they also become anonymous as a result.
‘Ambulance’ is yet another solid offering from a band that continue to strengthen their sound and explore new avenues. For a group crafting such cohesive full length albums, there’s no reason why something even grander won’t be around the corner.
Ambulance is out now via Partisan Records.
This The Amazing review was written by Stephen Butchard, a GIGsoup Contributor