For the past 15 years Amp have been at the forefront of experimental sound, mixing drone, Kraut inspired improvisation, ambience and swirling pop brilliance into a heady and absorbing body of work that is touched with genius.
Featuring core duo of Richard Amp and Karine Charff, this triple CD gathers together unreleased songs, alternate versions, rare releases and other sonic goodies and is a treat for long term fans and new listeners alike.
Disc one opens with the previously unreleased “Sketch A Star”, a dense cloud of drone that rolls from the speakers and sucks you straight into Amps world. Originally released as a 7” single “Remember” is half noise, half beautiful pop song, a drifting slice of brilliance that shows the band were full of ideas right from the start.
At 10 minutes “Alightfarout” shows a distinct Coil influence with its slowly changing sonic palette and eerie vocals, whilst “There She Goes” is a short piece of melancholy psychedelia originally released in 1992 on a self-produced cassette. Featuring the welcome sound of acoustic guitar “A Small Light” is another unreleased gem Featuring the bands first collaboration with Marc Challans (Fraud).
On “ICU” some murky dub infested beats cut through the drone tendencies to offer a different perspective, although as with the rest of the album, it is definitely Amp that is making the noise. More rhythms can be heard on the deep space explorations of “Frise” which sound like an outtake from “7-Up” (Ashra Tempel/T.Leary), before disc one finally closes with the mellow strangeness of “Fine Day”, recorded in 2005 and one of my favourite pieces.
One of the things that I find appealing about this album is the fact that the tracks are not in chronological order, meaning that you have to wait until the second track on disc two before you hear “Get There” the flipside to “Remember”, well worth the wait it is too, another distorted psych-pop gem to savour.
Recorded in 1999 but only ever released on a compilation (Fuzzy Boombox V.2 2004) “Standing In The Darkest Corner Of The Room” is a brooding slice of ambience and spoken word that creeps up the spine with devilish intent, whilst “Ipso Factum” is a much warmer slice of ambience that gently soothes the soul.
Highlight of disc two is the long electronic squall of “Lutin2”, a psychedelic wave of down trodden sounds and distorted beats, that displays the influence of early electronic pioneers such as Tangerine Dream or Kraftwerk. By contrast “Le Revenant”, featuring piano from John Cooper (who played with Richard in The Secret Garden) is a minimalist sound poem of haunting beauty, with the vocals of Karine adding the perfect touch of mystery.
With a passing nod to Aphex Twin and other electronic artists who managed to leave the dance scene in favour of something more cerebral, The insistent beats of “Miles’N” show another subtle change in the sound, the drones lost to the chattering noise that overlays it, creating an unsettling groove that refuses to leave you.
Opening disc three “Ombres” seems to be possibly the quintessential Amp track, with coil-esque vocals, electronic washes and insistent electronics beat all merging into a perfect whole, this has been a constant on my stereo for a while now. Featuring a Feedback Coda from Dave Pearce, “Moon Tree” is the oldest piece on the album, recorded in 1990-1991, and is a wonderfully dramatic drone that demands to be heard at high volume in a darkened room. In fact, that course of action is recommended for the whole of this album, allowing for complete concentration and enabling the listener to lose themselves completely in the ever-changing sonic textures.
The final disc contains, amongst its many delights, a trio of cover versions, starting with a fucked-up reading of “Scarborough Fair”, the vocals almost lost in the electronic mist. That same mist threatens to engulf the free-floating experience of “Seagreen Serenades” (Silver Apples), before the unholy trio is ended with a cover of “So Hot (Wash Away All Of My Tears)”, (Spacemen 3) with this version not straying too far from the original.
After an exhilarating ride across three disc, the album is closed with two unreleased tracks, the free form electronic drift of “Wild Wine Gaze” which was specifically mixed for this compilation, and the 10 minute cosmic drone of “When You Have Love” which sums up all that has gone before, slowly fading into nothing, the ringing in your ears the perfect thing to listen to after such a intense trip.
Given the amount of music on this disc, it is a testament to the playful inventiveness and exploratory spirit of Amp that it is easy to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, never a moment lost, never a song outstaying its welcome. An album you will still be playing in twenty years time.
(Simon Lewis) (2007)
There are some albums that you need to listen to but don’t necessarily need to own, while there are others that scream out to belong within a collection, to speak to the would be listener just by the scale of the project alone.
Amp, formed by Richard Walker and now including members, Karine Charff, Matt Elliot (of Flying Saucer Attack and later Third Eye Foundation) and Matt Jones, aren’t the first group you’d think of as producing one of these must-own albums. Their space rock/ electronica (as well as everything in between) sound caters to a predominantly leftfield market much more based in minimalism than high concept commodity.
And yet here we have ‘All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows’, a three CD digi pack release accumulating rarities and lost tracks throughout the band’s fifteen year existence.
While its reward factor may be high to those of an eclectic taste, a mainstream release this ain’t. Rest assured that from the offset those new to Amp will discover the complexity and dimension of their sound.
The first track for example, ‘Sketch a Star’ demonstrates how Amp, like other bands in the drone/ noise scene are interested in a singular sound, repeated and added too, creating a hypnotic effect, a blanket of sound that aficionados will immediately feel comfortable within.
A theme continued and evolved in the following track, ‘Remember’; pushing forward the psychedelic guitar work and flowing invasive vocals. Evocative of Sigor Ross’s earlier works and an aide memoire
of how much of an influence this underground band really has had
on the scene.
It’s not all pure drone and noise however (though rest assured the majority of it falls under this or similar quasi-genres) as on the various CD’s here Amp experiment with numerous techniques. Indeed that is the crux behind their sound; experimentations. Be it with the minimalist and spacey ‘Alightfarout’ or the break-beat/ trip-hop sound hallmarked by ‘ICU’.
There are some classic dream pop sounds in there too, like with ‘Beyond’, while also on the second CD ‘Silencer’ provides a dark ambient, almost minimalist techno feel to the mix; the vocals adding to its sublime atmosphere.
Not to mention ‘Ipso Factum’ a surprisingly straightforward acoustic track that despite its simplicity evokes a wonderful haunting ambience.
Hell, there are even cover versions present within the compilations, from the ghostly and hushed ‘Sea Green Serenade’ having a sound attuned with early IDM coming from the likes of AFX, to ‘Scarborough Fair’, another eerie and surreal manifestation, warping the folk classic into a corrupting dirge. Something to be sung on a blighted landscape at the end of days.
To dissect over three and a half hours of material into a small review would be foolhardy but fans of Amp’s work can rest easy knowing that this three CD compilation is something not to be missed, while those new to the group but familiar with the scene will undoubtedly backtrack their way through Amp’s history after the blissful immersing experience that this huge compilation provides.
by Michael Byrne
LEFT HIP Magazine
released July 2, 2007
Published by Van Steene Music/Kobalt
Published by Van Steene Music/Kobalt/Copyright Control
Tracks: 9,14. Published by heavy Truth Music Publishing
Track: 13. Copyright Control
Track: 29. Published by The Magic Theatre Partnership 1968/69
Track: 30. Published by EMI Music Publishing
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