American Analog Set are probably my favorite
slowcore band. Of course, i am not known for my love of slowcore.
I like pop okay. I really like ambient music. Combine the two
and you get slowcore, which mostly bores me. AmAnSet (as they
are often abbreviated) lean more to the pop side of things,
and that is what i like about them. They have a warm, 1970's
pop feel to them, caused in part by their prominent use of farfisa
organ, as well as the mellow voice of lead singer Andrew Kenney.
In general, i find their music kind of retro. Not in the sense
that i expect them to be wearing thrift-store mined polyester
pants with feathered hair and playing lame disco tunes, but
rather in that there is a certain slow, vaguely tired sensibility
to their music. I associate that sound with the light pop of
the 70's that i grew up listening to on car trips.
That is my general attitude towards AmAnSet. But i don't get
any of that here. In fact, this is a surprisingly forward looking
EP. It is AmAnSet as electro pop band, and i really really like
it. I think it is the best thing they have done since the song
It's All About Us (which is, after all, their classic
tune). It helps that they chose to work with labelmates Her
Space Holiday, as well as Belgian glitchster Styrofoam. Good
choices, and all three bands turn in quality performances.
AmAnSet start the EP off with an obscurity: the All I Want
for Christmas Mix of an old b-side called Desert Eagle.
This is a decent little instrumental that sets the mood for
the EP quite well. The organ dances lazily with some distorted
drumming. The next song, however, i find to be pure brilliance.
The song is These Days (Amanset Keystroke Mix) which
is, if you are paying attention, AmAnSet's cover of a song off
Expressive by Her Space Holiday. And rather than
take this electro pop song and simply slow it down, AmAnSet
try to be somewhat faithful to the original while still doing
it with instruments rather than computers. The song is all lightly
strummed guitars, quiet voice, and farfisa drone, with the drumming
going crazy! The AmAnSet drummer cuts loose in a way that he
never has on any of their releases. He lays down a funky breakbeat,
and the song, for me, soars. It's catchy -- damned catchy. I
love it when a cover song transcends the original, and that
is just what AmAnSet succeed in doing here.
The next two tracks are from the just-covered Her Space Holiday,
and they are remixes of songs from Know By Heart,
AmAnSet's latest full-length. First up is Aaron and Maria
(Her Space Holiday Mix), which was a slow ballad, and now
is a glitched out dance nightmare. Her Space Holiday have added
layers of fuzz and distortion to the guitars and organ, and
cranked up the level on the beat. It's funky and noisy and not
anything like what AmAnSet normally sound like. And yet, that
clearly is Kenney's voice. I find this to be an interesting
song, a nice fusion of pop and glitch. The next track is the
Her Space Holiday Mix of Know By Heart and i really
like it. Basically, this is a hip-hop and drum n bass tune constructed,
in part, out of AmAnSet samples. If it were on a different release,
i wouldn't connect it with AmAnSet at all. As such, i must say
that it is a bouncey little song, and when it explodes into
frenetic drum n bass towards the end it really works. More fine
tunes from Her Space Holiday.
The EP concludes with two remixes by Styrofoam, who is a Belgian
laptopper that i have been hearing some buzz about. He turns
in two fine tracks. The first is Styrofoam's Just Like the
Nineties Never Happened Mix of Postman. Kenney's
voice and the farfisa are clear over glitch beats. It's a restrained
remix, pleasant but not spectacular. The final track is Styrofoam's
Freezer Burn Mix of We're Computerizing and We Just
Don't Need You Anymore, which, let's face it, is just begging
to be remixed. (I mean, look at that title....) The mix Styrofoam
turns in here starts as an almost ambient mess of drones with
Kenney's distorted voice and little tinkling sounds for beats.
Slowly some powerful keyboarding comes along and drives the
song to its conclusion. It's very well done.
In fact, now that i look back at my notes like this, i realize
that in all three cases each band turns in a decent mix and
then follows it with something wonderful and interesting. Hmmm.
I wonder if that was intentional.
At any rate, this is a damned fine release. It is part of the
ever growing electro pop fusion scene, and a damned fine example
of it too. If you like Her
Space Holiday or The
Postal Service or similar things, then definitely check
this out. I am not sure how hardcore slowcore fans (die-hard
AmAnSetters) will handle this, though. It's very different for
AmAnSet, so if you aren't too fond of change, approach with