Release Date: Jul 22, 2016
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Dream Pop, Neo-Psychedelia, Indie Folk
You rather get the sense that the Amazing, the Swedish band who share members with neo-psychedelicists Dungen, have spent plenty of nights moping in underpopulated bars, before walking home through the snow. Their third album has an unyielding mood of beatific sadness, of wallowing happily in misery, that makes it blissful rather than a trial. Mood is the key thing: Christoffer Gunrup’s voice is bleached and inexpressive, making it hard to make out the lyrics, and while the Amazing embrace melody, there’s often an almost ambient underpinning to their songs: the hanging organ chord behind Tracks, for example.
For a set of contemplative rock that brings to mind words like "reverie" and "tapestry," look no further than Ambulance, the Amazing's fourth LP and follow-up to Picture You. It picks up where that album left off, perhaps slightly more introverted in demeanor, but with equally elegant guitar work by their three guitarists. That, along with Christoffer Gunrup's intimate murmur, and tasteful keyboard and drum reinforcement, seems to transport it to a state of suspended twilight.
There is no lyric sheet, and the only band picture that comes with Ambulance is a set of ghostly headshots, grey and blurred, like 19th-century daguerreotypes. The music, too, is blurry and reminiscent of a lost era. The Amazing, a Swedish group featuring Dungen guitarist/all-around prog guy Reine Fiske, specializes in a sort of long-winded, gorgeous psychedelia that is so unfashionable it almost becomes fashionable again.
The Amazing emerged in 2009 as blissed-out psych-folk nostalgists. Their influences—which they wore openly and proudly, like treasured thrift-store finds—all dated to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s: Hendrix, Cream, Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, pre-Buckingham/Nicks Fleetwood Mac (whom they gleefully covered on their self-titled debut). This likely had something to do with their record collections, and the fact that the Amazing shared members with fellow Swedish psych-rockers Dungen, including the group’s phenomenal guitarist, Reine Fiske.
Seeing as the recent popularity of psychedelic rock is mostly indebted to a certain hybridization of popular songforms, mostly attributed to Tame Impala’s breakout Currents, there are still some who refuse to capitalize on this growing trend. Releasing their second album in the span of seventeen months, The Amazing are still comfortably nestled in the vast stretches of sixties and seventies folk rock and its many variations. For a moment, it seemed as if the Swedish band were gently fading into obscurity after 2012’s Gentle Stream, and it would’ve ended up as a respectable two album run for a talented band that never managed to get their fair shot.
The open-ended nature of the Amazing’s sound rises right out of the band’s name itself. The amazing what, you might wonder. A modifier with nothing to modify, just gaping out into emptiness. But this sense of openness, of not knowing what’s coming next or even where structure ends and improvisation or experiment begins is the band’s chief strength.