Collecting the many hard-to-find vinyl singles Amp released on various U.K. labels, including Linda's Strange Vacation and Wurlitzer Jukebox, Passe-Present is a fine way to catch up on some of the band's catchier efforts, while also showing that even without lots of album space they can create all kinds of involved drone compositions. Richard Walker and Karine Charff remain the key members as always, but guest performers pop up on nearly every track, most often the usual participating musicians such as Guy Cooper, Gareth Mitchell, and Matt Elliott. Actually, one of the prime benefits of the compilation is that all of the performers get specific credit for what they played on each track, giving a much better sense than before of what everyone does. Organized in no specific order, the tracks make for a fun grab bag. Opening cut "Remember," the B-side of the group's debut single, starts out very much like other Amp compositions; it's all echo and shadowy vocals, before suddenly breaking into a full band performance (Elliott on drums, Matt Jones on bass) that sounds much more like earlier titans of blissout Slowdive than anything else. They then pile on the delay and drone even more as the track progresses. The A-side, "Get There," has Elliott contributing on viola as well, a little-heard element in other tracks by Amp. Meanwhile, "Scarborough Fair" -- yep, that "Scarborough Fair" -- features Walker on harmonium and accordion in favor of maximum guitar drone-out, though deep in the mix, unnerving wails and sounds lurk while Charff sings in a lost, understated fashion. "Noir Et Noir," previously unreleased, is Amp at their most minimal, the first half consisting of a looped ebb and flow of sound for ten minutes, not quite like anything they've already done. Passe-Present is as inconsistent as any compilation should be, reflecting a variety of different sides in a talented group.
Ned Ragget - All Music
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