Sunday, 1 November 2009

Amateur Assassins: Pioneer Abnormalities

Article by Robbie Dennison

Once upon a time in Stoke, there was a nice thing called the Music Room. Of a Saturday you could get the bus up to Stockton Brook and spend a day drinking tea and browsing the most eclectic and exciting small record shop you're likely to find this side of reality. The Music Room also put on regular nights at the Talbot Hotel in Stoke town, which were the sort of thing that you wouldn't think could happen in "this sort of place".

Yet they did, with a range of bands including anti-folk heroes like Kimya Dawson, US alternative figureheads Of Montreal and downright great local acts too. It was at the Music Room that I first noticed the emergence of the guitar-driven, mazey-jazzy-spazzout sound as purveyed by Amateur Assassins. Maybe I was behind the times and all the kids with better shoes had been playing this sort of things for years, but I found it all pretty intriguing.

Around that time, and since then, places like Manchester and Nottingham seem to have become something of a stronghold for this sort of music. I've always thought the danger associated with it, and what sets apart good examples from bad, is the ability to vary the textures and feel of tracks (varying tempos certainly aren't a problem).

This album from Amateur Assassins manages that, with the first track Morphine Pupilus initially reminiscent of industrial electronica. We are soon lead back into more familiar clean, jazz picking and anaphylactic vocal stylings on tracks such as Cyanide Sweet Shenanigans and Signed, Served and Sealed but crucially this is tempered by the moody instrumentalism of Dinosaur and others.

In fact, this pattern is varied regularly across the whole album. It's good to see, as being a bit of a secret pop nancy I've not always got along well with bands that stick solely to the balls-out-of-the-bath hardcore jazzout. So here it's nice to report that the more ambient tracks, or intervals or whatever you'd like to call them, make the whole a much more palatable and crucially memorable piece. It feels organic and as if the tracks were intended to sit well next to each other - a rare feat in these dark days of albums featuring five singles and seven tracks of bloated b-side filler acting as the wood shavings in this particularly bad sausage metaphore.

Amateur Assassins

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