Amp – Q Factors (A Mixtape)

by Freq | 2017-12-14T16:14:36+00:000000003631201712 16:14

Ampbase Recordings

Amp - Q factors (a mixtape)The wonderful Amp have now been ploughing their particular furrow for the last twenty-five years or so. Having been birthed from the same fertile Bristol scene as Third Eye Foundation, Flying Saucer Attack, Movietone and Crescent, the band that finally coalesced around the duo of Karine Charff and Richard Amp have been regularly releasing the kind of drifting, transportative and adventurous albums that really take the listener on a journey.

Spread across a myriad of labels in the early day, their self-contained and perfectly wrought 7″ singles sat in good company with albums released on Kranky, Darla and Space Age Recordings, moving from dramatic beat-driven experimentation to deep, rhythmless ambience. They never really seem to sit still, as each album was a sideways step from the one before, pursuing an agenda of which only they were aware. It seems over the last few years that they have found a permanent home with their own Ampbase label, and perhaps that affords them supreme control over all aspects of the releases.

Now, there is talk of a new album of material to be released in 2018, but to keep the listeners sweet up to that point, this collection of previously unreleased remix tracks has been set free, and what a delight it is. Ten tracks coming in at a little over an hour means that, as we would expect, there is plenty of opportunity to stretch out and sample a different perspective of what Amp have been doing for the past seventeen years. The album has been in consideration since 2000 and its slow evolution means that those tracks chosen lend the album a narrative which most compilation albums don’t tend to have.

Amp collaborator Marc Challans kicks things off with a the shuffling, muffled urgency of “Drowning Mind”. The guitars shimmer and shriek over a sinuous bassline as Karine’s deranged and otherworldly vocals rattle around, soaked in reverb. There is a Bark Psychosis sense of delirium and dread, and the feeling that you are stuck on a permanently spinning waltzer, overwhelming yet thrilling at the same time. It is quite an opener, but thankfully, things take a turn for the trip-hop on the following “Hownow” which also has Challans’ involvement. Massive reverb guitar and crazed effects over a slippery beat show some similarities to what Laika used to do. It is much more mellow, like an out of focus film score and Karine’s vocals are even more woozy and disembodied. That gentle beat-led sound with Karine’s vocals slathered somewhere in the mix was always a big part of the Amp sound, but the selection here really does cover a lot of different ground.

There is an element of fluttering shoegaze on AMPstudio‘s mix of “Loverflower”, and the ethereal guitars and light febrile drumming on “Just Get It” draw everything in together, integrating all the sounds into a atmospheric whole, Karine’s vocals once again sitting right at the back of the mix, almost hidden, but with their intimacy essential to the whole picture.

“D’espoir De Mourir” is a real surprise though. Taken by late ’90s, early ’00s AMP collaborator Olivier Gauthier, it is given a Bug-like heavy dub vibe. The ominous bass and eerie siren noises really change the mood of the album so far. The beat is wooden and persistent, and the vocals utterly drained of emotion, so stark that they are almost sterile. The rattlesnake rhythm is sinister and pregnant with portent, and is incredibly satisfying if a little draining. It also marks a slight change of feel as the rest of the tracks rely far less heavily on beats — although the beats are present, they are less insistent and the tracks are more inclined to drifting.

The unhinged double-tracked vocals of “Waiting Room Blues” are rambling and off-kilter. They sit over a similarly ramshackle drumbeat with odd noises emanating from who knows where. It is like overhearing a drunken conversation taking place over double bass and a pastoral English folk setting. It is an interesting downturn in tempo as the final three tracks exhibit the more spacey and ambient direction on AMP’s music. The dreamy piano and drifting drones of “Push’n’hold” eventually pick up a Balearic-style sunshine beat, with distorted and blurred vocals giving a real comedown, still up at sunrise vibe and also pave the way for the last two tracks. They take things down a little further to a point where the faint watercolour washes of final track “Ombre Sur La Lune” is like the gentlest of breaths on your neck. It echoes the kind of thing that This Mortal Coil were producing in the ’80s, with the piano ghosts, rain on window ticks and clicks lulling you into a soporific reverie.

From opening to closing, this album not only gives you the greatest impression of all the ground that AMP have covered over the years, but also takes the listener on a personal journey from the drama and noise of the opening track to the gentle lulling sensations of the closer. On the strength of what this album contains, I can’t wait to hear next year’s new material; but for now, this is a perfect gift.

-Mr Olivetti-

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