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Artist: The Amazing

Album: The Amazing

Label: Subliminal Sounds

Review date: Oct. 13, 2009

The Amazing filters psychedelia and California pop through a cool Scandinavian lens, wrapping eddies of drumming and rampant guitar in fuzzy serenity. The band’s combination of styles is perfectly understandable when you consider its members: four guys from Dungen and former Granada frontman Christoffer Gunrup.

It’s hard to overstate how damn pleasant this record is -- the very thing, if you’re so inclined, for staring out the window mid-morning on a nice Saturday. Little tempests of noise brew in the harder, more psychedelic tracks, but never disturb the tranquility. Dungen’s Johan Holmegard drums, often, as if he’s in a much louder band, building a busy, clamorous friction under watercolor washes of temperate sound. Reine Fisk, also from Dungen, strews globs of bent guitar sound over sunstreaked melodies, sometimes surreally lucid, other times explosive, yet always subsumed within an unruffled whole. And singer Gunrup has one of those cool, unhurried, effortlessly carrying voices suited for the backward-looking emotions of pop – regret, nostalgia, distant fondness.

The best of the Amazing’s songs approximate Dungen’s luminous, psychedelic swirl with only a patina of pop. These songs dive the deepest into instrumental storm and drama, coming up only incidentally, breaking the surface into melody with the blinking dazzlement of deep sea swimmers. Of these, “Code II” seems the most successful, its taunts and squeals of organ coming over heavy, slow-paced guitar riffs and abstract flurries of drum. The instrumental part of this song is satisfyingly murky, mysterious and boiling with energy, yet it is pushed down in the mix, way under the dreamy vocals, producing the merest threat of violence at the peripheries. “Dead” is similar, a heavy psych barnstormer heard dimly from behind a thick glass of pop.

Other cuts – “The Kirwan Song,” “Dragon” and “Is It Likely” -- are more like pure songwriter pop, light as air, devastatingly pretty, but without any palpable sense of tension. “Is It Likely” floats weightlessly, little bent guitar notes pinging through airy melodies, a vaguely Latin woodblock beat driving the motion forward. And finally, the CD (but not the vinyl) includes a trio of airly picked, softly sung folk songs – “Beach House,” “Romanian” and “The Strangest Thing” – performed primarily by Gunrup and one guitar.

There are, however, a couple of songs that bridge the psych/pop divide nicely. “Had to Keep Walking” drops three minutes of abstract, feedback-dopplered guitar into a pristine pop structure, then picks up as if nothing special had happened, with the opening’s cool melodies and dual guitars. “Deportation Day” melds folk, pop and psych most effortlessly, however, the jangly, paisley garage guitars melting into the easy lilt of melody.

The combination of velvety psyche and breezy tunefulness on "Deportation Day" makes you realize that, at its best, The Amazing is considerably more than a poppier, accessible Dungen. It’s like a unicorn -- very similar to a horse, made magical by a small difference.

By Jennifer Kelly

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