AMP is back, and they’re not blissed out. Any astral projections you might see while listening to Stenorette would probably be of some city dweller, long dead from a embolism brought on by the paradox of modern city life being both lonely and claustrophobic.
Gone is the low-fi aura that Richard Walker and Karine Charff used to submerge everything in. While we’re talking about departures, I may as well mention that collaborator Gareth Mitchell isn’t here on the album either, but AMP’s sound was and is shapeless, so its hard to tell where any one member’s sound begins and ends. That crisp, clean void you now hear is not brought to you by Budweiser, but by the production/recording talents of Robert Hampson (what your people used to call Loop, his call Main).
In this temporary universe that Hampson conjures, and Walker and Charff populate, its none-too appropriate that the sounds here often evoke a AMPlifier being played, and not the actual guitar or bass. That is to say, like in Main, guitars are nearly unrecognizable, having been rendered quiet, hazy, and spectral.
While the electric guitar died beautifully on the mixing desk/operating table, AMP is proud to tell you that the piano came through quite nicely. Next to the not-jungle, not-drum n’bass, not-quite hip-hop, electronic beats of also-newcomer to AMP, Oliver Gauthier, the piano sounds all the more stark and lovely. “Tomorrow” and “You Are Here” may have beat (pun unintended) Bowery Electric to their “new” post-“Beat” sound, that being a slightly sad, repeated melody atop a mid-tempo electro groove with dub-like echoes and remaindered feedback every so often.
The only track that cuts through all this digital melancholy (of a nice kind) is “Sunflower.” This song is no less an anomaly than the aforementioned plant cracking through the asphalt and cement of a sidewalk. A breezy, lilting vocal by Karine next to a noticeable guitar melody becomes downright shocking by its conclusion here. Lest we think that they’d be happy to sit on this bit of euphoria for 6 – 7 minutes like some bands of their type, AMP goes into overdrive in a scant minute for the chorus (actual pop song structure?!) which just goes higher in pitch and melody.
AMP has indeed changed their sound, and not managed to totally disappoint in doing it. Having said that, I don’t think its going to bring them rock stardom either. If you love the old AMP sound, this may not completely satisfy, but if you got into them because you needed yet another sound to fill the post-“Loveless” vacuum, this can probably help.
Written by Pearson Greer.