Ampline – The Choir

Ampline
The Choir

Ampline is a band that’s been around for quite awhile. The members have been in various bands in the Cincinnati scene and have tried to find a tight fit. It eventually was found with the current incarnation of Ampline, which came together a few years ago. They decided to scrap the idea of finding a singer in order to put considerably more emphasis on the music itself. Their debut was made in the form of an EP on the finest indie label in Wisconsin, Sun Sea Sky Productions [which Jeff is involved in, thus a bit biased – ed.]. They also released a great split CD with an amazingly talented indie band called Roger That Houston. Back then Ampline played a bit different than they do now. They were considerably brighter and melodic. Songs like “Painting Moments” and “Blueprints for a Hero” were quite catchy and easily digested upon the first listen. The band has had a few line-up changes since their initial debut EP. These include adding a second guitarist as well as a new drummer. However, in recent times Ampline has tuned their sound to be a bit more discordant, focusing more attention on darkness to evoke a specific type of mood. While there are slight elements of melodic tangencies, they prefer to stick to a heavier more abrasive rock sound.

“Losing Things to Find Them Later” starts off the album with a heavy rocking number that really doesn’t go anywhere in particular. It has a driving force, but there are not any melodic hooks in the song, and one is left to listen to bland, unseasoned, and unflavored guitar rock that is anything but intricate. “Oldest Fighter” comes in a bit better than its previous track with a muffled bass line and an intricate repeating clean guitar part. The drumming is crisp and clear and is soon followed by vibraphones. While the track is not the most interesting and exciting, it does have some nice moments of rocking out. Eventually the beginning motif is repeated towards the end while being complemented by a nice layer of vibes. “Texture of Regret” starts out with a dark guitar similar in respects to early Slint. It eventually transpires into mostly dirty (partial distortion) guitars that meander with the bassline to form a slightly depressing number. Again, while the band progresses and makes transitions they are not very interesting and they really do not take the song anywhere in particular.

I enjoy math rock that progresses and develops new ideas into new and exciting guitar parts that fit nicely into the song. Unfortunately all of Ampline’s transitions seem to be mediocre at best and in many cases bore the listener. The fourth track on the album, “Drawn and Quartered” starts off with another minor key sounding guitar and bass line a la early Slint. Eventually the drums come full force and progress to a heavier more rocking part. “Paper Tiger” is a bit better than the other tracks with an intricate heavy guitar part that develops into something that catches the listener’s ear. Drums and bass complement it and take it to another level. “The Gospel and its Choir” enters in with a clean guitar and bass part playing softly. The use of tremolo guitar effects works quite well in evoking the given mood of the song. Eventually it becomes heavier but fails to deliver on the goods of becoming an exciting and interesting song for the listener. “Typewritten” is the most off-kilter song on the record and mostly consists of heavy guitar parts playing off notes in a very staccato manner. A nice transition to a clean guitar part comes after about a minute of pure rock. “About Being Quiet” is the final track on the album and starts off with an atmospheric and ambient beginning. After two minutes or so, another Slint-esque guitar part arises and creates a dark and disturbing mood for the listener. It is quite repetitive for awhile and eventually turns into a noisefest a la Trail of Dead. Soon after the misery of the track and the album is over.

In comparison to Ampline’s early material on Sun Sea Sky Productions, their new album on Tiberius Records is indeed a big disappointment. The band at one time had quite a bit of potential and was starting to become more recognized and familiar with those in the same genre. However, The Choir is more like “The Chore,” because it is hard to listen to and simply offers little intricacy and continued dulled musicianship as well as no emotional capacity whatsoever. Out of the slew of instrumental bands making their way throughout the music scene, Ampline in my opinion appears to be a D- or F-rated student. I hope that with their next release they put a little more time and effort into the songwriting process, making songs that are not only interesting and that appeal to the listener’s ear but also contain emotional elements.

Ampline should spend more time studying and doing their homework from math class. I will give them a failing or an incomplete grade and recommend they seek remedial math skills or help from a private tutor. Most importantly, they should always remember that dividing by zero is not zero but instead an impossibility. Guys, practice those equations and work on those practice problems, and I’m sure you’ll do much better on your next exam. Class dismissed.