Amplifier- Echo Street (Kscope)
New offering from Mancunian post rockers Amplifier – newly oceansized!
Emerging from the post rock hotbed that is Manchester, Amplifier first announced themselves with a self-titled debut album way back in 2004. This album delved into territory explored by Tool, Floyd and various other prog giants in an expansive sound. A breath of fresh amplified air which lead to critical acclaim and an opening slot at Download Festival in 2006 (headlined by Tool themselves).
Since then Amplifier have crafted two more albums and carved their own small niche of devoted fans. However if, like me, you thought the last two releases from Amplifier perhaps didn’t quite build on the promise of the debut, then you might have been buoyed by the fact that the three piece that was Amplifier recently became four- melding with former members of fellow Mancunian post rockers Oceansize (R.I.P.).
So this adds, along with another epic guitar, the opportunity for Amplifier to experiment with three part vocal harmonies. This is most clearly evident on the forth track Go Where The River Goes, where the central vocal line is expanded by the aforementioned backing vocals as the song builds to a predictable crescendo. However, this can’t hide the fact the ‘I go where the river goes, where the river goes I go’ is not a fantastic lyric. Sel Belemir possess a nice voice and has generally a pretty good ear for melody. But the main strength of Amplifier has always been the explosive guitar work, underpinned by a superb rhythm section.
Sel’s ability to manipulate his array of mid bending guitar effects during the instrumental sections of the songs was, along with the great riffs, the central attraction of Amplifier! So, as the second half of the album follows Go Where the River Goes, it is maybe a little disconcerting for listeners to realise how mellow the remainder of the album is. Not to say that this is all bad, there are some lovely flourishes, such as the nicely controlled guitar feedback on title track Echo Street. But it does, in places, fall foul to overindulgence- so often a prog turnoff! And, for me, has too much focus on the vocals.
That said, the first half of the album has some more characteristically Amplifier style. Opener Matmos, for example, is a slow building epic reminiscent of a modernised Pink Floyd. The extra guitar helps to nourish the gradual build up until the inevitable explosion of sound. And the ending section to The Wheel has some of the exciting guitar work you would hope Amplifier to produce.
Thankfully, third track Extra Vehicular is probably where the balance is found. Another slow burner, but the track does satisfyingly reach the noisy climatic peaks of feedback drenched noise the band have always been capable of reaching. Overall, Amplifier’s first offering with their new line up is interesting, and one which may yet become mind blowing. But a bedding in period may prove beneficial.
All words by Mike Brotherton. Find more by Mike on Louder Than War.