A rich and colourful record featuring members of Swedish prog-rockers Dungen.
Matthew Horton 2009-11-25
It takes sky-darkening levels of confidence to call your band The Amazing, but this Swedish supergroup (term used advisedly) do their best to invite the adjective. Comprising guitarist Reine Fiske and drummer Johan Holmegard from jazz-prog group Dungen, along with Granada singer Christoffer Gunrup and jobbing musician Fredrik Swahn, The Amazing have taken a few loose jam sessions and moulded an often gorgeous whole, making the daunting accessible.
While the components remain jazz, psychedelia, folk and prog, the resulting circuitry is considerably more immediate than much of Dungen’s recent work, favouring pretty hooks over long instrumental passages, and giving real emotional heft to the songs. Yes, most of the tracks top five minutes – and Had to Keep Walking sets the controls for the heart of the sun for a full 11 – but the arrangements are surprisingly lean.
Much of this is down to Fiske’s eloquent guitar, which weaves beautiful patterns with plenty of variety but not an ounce of waste. On the utterly defeated melancholy of Romanian it sounds like the prim pluckings of Nick Drake; on The Kirwan Song it’s the clipped chimes of Television’s Richard Lloyd. More than this, Fiske is an assured mood-setter, bringing pain to the mellow chords of Is It Likely and soothing the mind on the flightily regretful Dragon, a cousin of Fairport Convention’s stately Who Knows Where the Time Goes?.
Gunrup’s own Granada once supported Belle and Sebastian, and the singer is a vocal ringer for their Stuart Murdoch, particularly on the jangly Radiohead-meets-B&S Deportation Day and over those easy Dragon grooves. It’s testament to The Amazing’s versatility that these influences can meld with echoes of Pink Floyd on the somewhat overstretched Had to Keep Walking and the Spiritualized wall of sound on the awesome Dead.
The album is left hanging with The Strangest Thing’s ponderous folk, but by and large the chutzpah of the band’s name pays off. This is a rich, colourful record that disguises a slow pace with delicacy and atmosphere.