Amor is a new quartet based largely in Glasgow, consisting of Richard Youngs, Luke Fowler, Michael Francis Duch and Paul Thomson (Franz Ferdinand / Yummy Fur). AMOR is a master-class in blissful, searching, avant-disco fuelled by telepathic ensemble playing and an untouchable, higher joy.
Recorded predominantly at Glasgow’s Green Door and mixed by Golden Teacher/The Modern Institute-member Richard McMaster, both tracks edge the 14 minute mark, slices of ecstasy seemingly hewn from a band deep in the Zone. Mastered by Matt Colton at Alchemy Studios, the balance between hefty, bass-thick kicks and crisp percussion, an elastic double bass that lends a bounce to proceedings and floating piano chords recalls a warped take on Philadelphia International Records, a version of Can decimating the disco charts of late 70s USA. Paradisebegins with a proto-house kick drum and Paul Thomson’s inescapably funky percussion, inviting Duch’s bass into the mix. Fowler’s subtle electronic touches set up some of the most open-hearted, love-infected vocals Richard Youngs has ever set to tape. Guided through various drops and ecstatic highs by ceaselessly inventive rhythm composition, the listener is elevated to several plains, to different levels and spirits. In Love An Arc, arguably goes deeper. Jane Sayer’s guest violin scrapes us in, with formless shapes polluting the stereo field until a plaintive piano chord pattern brings us into the groove. Sounding like a lost spirit looking through the glass darkly, Youngs’ vocal is melancholic and truthful. Fowler’s synth playing evolves upward, duetting with the stringed instruments’ deep excursions into the night.
While these are only the first recordings by AMOR, the members have separate exceptional histories in modern music. Richard Youngs has a 140+ long discography covering any number of musics often invented by Youngs himself, while Luke Fowler is an award winning film-maker and visual artist, as well as an electronic musician in his own right. Paul Thomson is a drummer and percussionist with Franz Ferdinand and The Yummy Fur and Michael Francis Duch is a double bassist based in Norway with deep roots in the world of improvisation and minimalist composition. Most importantly, however, is that this is the sound of a band, as one.
Within the music of Galaxians – the trio of Emma Mason, Matt Woodward and Jed Skinner – lies a powerfully hedonistic strain that does much to loop a thread through the party lineage of their adopted hometown of Leeds. Coupled with the first impressions of what the pair loosely term their “pre-digital dance music”, you might not raise an eyebrow to find out that their cues are taken in-part from classic disco and house labels such as Sleeping Bag or Chicago’s TRAX, nor that their early EPs found homes across the Atlantic on the similarly-minded Dither Down in Brooklyn, and Atlanta’s Rotating Souls Records.
However, it’s the beating pulse of Northern England club life, married with the thriving independence of much of the region’s best venues and spaces that forces its way through on the duo’s debut LP Let The Rhythm In. Recorded at Leeds Ghost Town studios with Ross Halden, the eight tracks come steeped in the Yorkshire city’s less-trumpeted but enduring house heritage – with inspiration drawn from the all-day parties of the late 70s and early 80s, the disco that emerged from the fading Northern Soul movement of the early 80s and the resonant acid house era that boomed across both sides of the Pennines.
Previous 12”’s Galaxians and Personal Disco Component captured much of the lo-fi scuzziness that Galaxians have long-surrounded themselves with – as likely to pop up playing more punk-associated DIY spots like their hometown’s Wharf Chambers as they are in front of the heads at Beat-Herder or late-night with the likes of Horse Meat Disco and Auntie Flo. That raw playfulness in their sound still bubbles beneath the surface, but there’s a whole new fluidity to proceedings, a seamless flow between the rattle and strut of their analogue funk.
If Skinner and Woodward have deftly refined things however, then what’s altered the soundscape unequivocally is the addition of long-time friend and vocalist Emma Mason. Though not a constant, her presence is felt immediately on the opening track Street Level, a powerful, soulful vocal that commands the track in a way that resonates far beyond the relatively brief time she actually appears. On Subway Dancers, meanwhile, the heat and hustle of its bassy propulsion melts beneath the shimmer and sway of the melody.
Friday 15th September 2017
Price: £5 advance (+stbf)