Very few bands have been able to recapture the lush, dreaminess of the ’70s LA Music Scene, which formed the basis of today’s surf rock and post-rock movements and has influenced the rise of indie folk. Midlake is probably the one band that has mastered the sound of that era, and right behind them are Sweden’s The Amazing.
The band is considered a “supergroup”, as its members started off with well-known Swedish acts. Reine Fiske is the lead guitarist for psych-rockers Dungen, and he’s had a hand in producing or supporting a number of prog-rock bands in Scandinavia. Christoffer Gunrup performed with Granada before they split in 2003 and supports acclaimed Swedish-Finish composer Anna Päivikki Järvinen. The two are joined by Fredrik Swahn, Alexis Benson, and Moussa Fadera, and for nearly 8 years they have produced some of the most sublime music in that time.
In 2009, they release their self-titled debut that saw the group take elements of their psychedelic and prog-rock experiences and meld them with intricate yet subtle layers and textures to create a melodious, dreamy sound. In 2012, they released Gentle Stream, which added more layers and beauty. It was an outstanding album, and it likely would have been on our Favourite Albums of 2012 if we were around then (and it is still being spun in these parts).
Now on Picture You, The Amazing continue to slowly develop and refine their sound. Their third full-length album sees the band aim for grandeur and that combines the lush sound of sounds of Gentle Stream while mixing in their psychedelic and other experiences.
The opening track, “Broken”, and “Tell Them You Can’t Leave”, for instance, retain the ethereal quality that fans fell in love with The Amazing in the first place, but they lean towards post-rock where no single instrument plays a lead role but instead they work harmoniously together. The tracks are also more melodious, more harmonic.
Many of the songs are also more elongated, often containing one or two transitions which make the songs seem to be two separate but related tracks. The title track is the first to reveal the deviation. The first half airs with sublime dreaminess and then the subtle plucking of the guitar followed by the light stutterings of the snare drum take us in a new direction – a nearly 5-minute instrumental jam that is a wonderful sonic adventure. The track brilliantly blends into “Circles”, which, in a very good way, has the tender romanticism reminiscent of Christopher Cross’ and Chris De Burgh’s chart-toppers of the early 1980s, and is finished off with a lovely folk-pop instrumental.
“Fryshusfunk” also has that lush ’70s and ’80s feel, but it is more expansive. Mixing funk grooves and bass lines with their dreamy post-rock, the track further demonstrates the innovation of the band. The melody shift at around the 3-minute mark slowly transitions into something unexpected and stirring – a psychedelic rock jam session. The track gives a false sense of serenity before the explosive ending, like the calm before the storm.
“Safe Island” sees the band return to the melodic rock of Gentle Stream. It’s a stirring, mid-tempo number where the guitars play a starring role yet without overpowering the beautiful harmonies. The song, though, ends with a nearly 2.5-minute wave of distortion and static noise, recreating the experience of a plane going off the radar. The closing track, “Winter Dress”, also follows the sound and approach of the past effort, but it finishes with a fantastic and coherent guitar solo.
The eight-minute “Captured Light” is a stunning track and it might be the album’s highlight. It stirs with the emotion one would find in a Fleet Foxes’ song – contemplative and poignant and a sound that is rich and captivating. The song ebbs and flows as Fiske sings about the possibilities between two people, building towards its anti-climatic end. The track, itself, could be the theme of the album and the band, as Fiske sings, “Know what we could be…And so we wait…All our lives”.
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