Twenty-four months after the release of their critically acclaimed third album The Octopus, Amplifier are back with a brand new album called Echo Street - their first with the new four-piece line-up - and a new working arrangement with Kscope.
The deal sees the band come full circle. Sales of independently released The Octopus left them amazed and delighted, and encouraged them to headhunt the promise of Kscope (home to Anathema, Porcupine Tree etc) to now provide the best of both worlds - artistic freedom and commercial clout to take Amplifier to a new level.
Such change is constant for Amplifier, who have always been a band that refuses to stand still. Now the band of Sel Balamir (guitars) and Matt Brobin (drums) re-emerge at the core of a very different animal - a four-piece line-up that has delivered a subtle shift in style allowing them to mix their epic space rock jams with accessible pieces boasting three-part vocal harmonies - sung by Sel, former Oceansize man Steve Durose (second guitar) and Alex “Magnum” Redhead (bass).
Sel: “I guess the people are going to be expecting something like a follow-up to The Octopus - but Echo Street isn’t like that at all. It’s important that people understand that not everything will be like what has gone before. I never want to repeat myself.”
Nothing in life is completely black and white but if The Octopus was black, then Echo Street is white.
“Before I sort the sheep out into the order of the most beautiful. I like to put all the white ones over here and all the black ones over there. That’s a summary of my job - it’s a bit like being a rock shepherd”
Tending the flock has also seen him double-up as an archaeologist - delving deep into the Amp-archives with Matt to create this new Amplifier album in a brand new way. The pair first dusted down cassette recordings of ancient jams to uncover old gems and reinvent them for the new line-up.
“This was really exciting. I’ve never, ever made a record where we just sat down and said we’ve got to write something right now! Let’s just do it and see what happens… That could have been a nightmare for me. But we had a large body of tapes going back to the ’90s from which to cherry-pick ideas that could be developed.”
The results are startling. Echo Street opens with Four vast epics Matmos, The Wheel, Extra Vehicular and Where The River Goes, and then shifts into more subtle and reflective territory; the haunting Paris In The Spring and the classy, CSN-like Between Today And Yesterday, the Floydian infinity of the title track Echo Street before ending on the anthemic Mary Rose.
“I think the diversity on Echo Street is a strong feature. It’s quite like the first album in that respect. All the songs on the first album sound quite different to one another… But it was a really difficulty album to sequence. There wasn’t anything that was really obvious. So we decided to go with the time tested method of giving the listener a sustained boot in the face, before following up with a nice stroke on the back.”
“We had no idea what it was going to be when we started. The whole thing from starting to write it to actually having a finished master was 60 days. You need to put that in context with the fact that The Octopus took 4 years…”
“We are extraordinarily pleased with Echo Street. We didn’t think that we could better The Octopus, but I think that Echo Street has a timeless quality about it. It’s probably the Amplifier album that most people will know with time. There’s something really special about it…”
And there you have it. In black and white.