This review is part of my coverage of the 2013 Progressive Music Awards, on 3 September.
Amplifier is one of the few bands in the small but noticeably growing post-progressive scene (proving, once and for all, that "post-" can be appended to anything). It's music that firmly falls into the progressive rock camp--you won't be at a loss for extended pieces, odd time signatures, and musical prowess--but also utilizes the dynamic movement and repetitiousness of post-rock. The fusion creates notably complex and progressive music with the same feeling and emotional effectiveness of post-rock, a truly powerful combination that, at its peak, can create some of the most arresting music possible.
And Echo Street is one of the finest realizations of this genre yet. Every single song on this album moves like a tidal wave, building up and rolling over the listener, crushing them with the force of a dozen untethered musical crescendos. The music starts very softly--the beginning of the album is literally inaudible--but Amplifier are in no rush. They take their time in exploring the aural space around them, building their music in an inexorably increasing cycle of gradual builds and shallow denouements, until the combined weight of their mountainous music collapses in on itself in a beautiful, musical climax.
"Extra Vehicular", the twelve-minute epic, is probably the standout song on the album, moving itself through a half-dozen climaxes before finally releasing the listener from its powerful grip. But it's far from alone as a quality track--"Mary Rose" has a strangely attractive, slightly off-kilter melody, and the title track manages to hit the hardest while using only lyricless vocals. In fact, not all of the pieces have to be that relentlessly cyclical nor needlessly complicated--"Paris in the Spring", a largely acoustic-based ballad forming the centre of the album, is about as basically effective a piece as anyone could hope for, based solely around a simple, gradually-building refrain of "Where the river goes, I go".
Granted, some songs aren't quite as satisfying--"Never & Always" takes entirely too long to reach its payoff (around eight full minutes until we hit the truly gratifying progression) and sounds weak doing it, and "Between Today & Yesterday" never quite arrives where it needs to. But even considering the lack of true payoff, the journey still manages to be memorable, which is more than I can say for many albums.
Echo Street has a nod for album of the year at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards, and I can completely understand why. This is a flabbergasting piece of music, and certainly the best out of Amplifier's career. While I don't think it's the best of the year, it's certainly damn close; progressive fans everywhere must own this album.
Recommended if you like: Big Big Train, modern Anathema, Oceansize