erasing clouds

Amp, Us

reviewed by dave heaton

Amp's style of ambient-drone-pop music has always felt like solitary music to me: records you put on to transport yourself to another place. A cloud of sound, with buried voices of mystery, take you on a trip within your mind. The title of Amp's new album marks it as more inclusive than that, if you read it as Us, or more confrontational, if you look at the back cover and see where they've graffiti-ed "Amp" across the A in "USA" to get the album's title.

Listen to just the first track alone, "Opening," and your hunches will be confirmed - the track builds into an intense force of nature, with squealing instruments and voices, signaling that Amp have some serious anger to express. If you couldn't guess, the next track, "Get Here," contains pointed lyrics to let you know that what's at stake is the state of the world: "Get what you want / take what you see / the American way / is just an illusion / you're never free." By letting social outrage into their music they've taken introspective dream music and made it something outwardly focused and provactive. On "Opening" and "Get Here" they lend their music an in-your-face punk edge to match their anger, in the process transforming it quite significantly.

Us isn't all about the games governments play with human lives - much of the album is occupied by gentler, sadder songs carrying expressions of emotion: loneliness, fear, hurt. Here are the reminders that human beings are being used as pawns. Amp use free-jazz elements and lopsided electronic textures to conjure up that feeling that life's out-of-whack, to echo the nervousness of people who know horrible things are happening to people like them but don't have the resources to stop them.

Amp's attitude towards horrific events is a mixture of sadness and straight-up anger. The album's second-to-last track viscerally embodies both - "Endgame" portrays American gun violence as a relative of egotism and greed, while also tapping into the real human pain involved. On Us, Amp point fingers in a way that's built in a sincere concern for humanity. While pushing their music in adventurous new directions, they're also pouring their hearts into their songs in an effort to make listeners think of the world outside of their bedrooms.


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