Review of Her Mouth Is An Outlaw [12k1049]

Textura (.ORG)

I won’t pretend to be on intimate terms with every release in the 12k catalogue but I’m familiar enough with the label’s output to know that Amplifer Machine’s Her Mouth Is An Outlaw is a significant departure from the label’s typical electronic-centered releases. Established in 2002 and comprised of Alex Jarvis (guitar, drums), James Dixon (guitar, Korg, piano) and Seth Rees (drums, violin, samples, piano, guitar), Amplifer Machine exemplifies some minor connection to post-rock in its sound and, even more pointedly, obviously downplays an electronic dimension in its sound. The group’s semi-improvisational approach is rather Hegelian in spirit, with a sonic thesis proposed that’s in turn met with an antithesis and subsequent synthesis. As mentioned, the post-rock connection is largely tangential since it’s more a matter of instrument choices; more significantly, Amplifer Machine eschews the histrionic peaks and valleys one associates with the post-rock genre. There’s a peaceful, drifting quality to the closing pieces “Up With the Curtain, Down With Yr Pants” and “Memories of the Feeble-Minded” that’s not just refreshing but strongly appealing, especially when the violin conducts its slow crawl across the tranquil guitar shadings during the latter piece.

The opening title track features nine minutes of Labradford-styled, guitar-centered melancholia that unfolds in languorous slow-motion; true to the trio’s “Rule” that “when the other two members have settled, it’s your turn to change,” instrument colours evolve throughout, with the omnipresent guitar eventually joined by the saw of the bowed violin. Augmented by subtle drum and cymbal punctuations, a restrained, guitar-based attack lends “Pockets Full of Red Dirt” atmospheric ambient character. The album’s most powerful piece, “Poor People in Church,” begins with prepared piano ruminations that are eventually joined by convulsive waves of steely, guitar-generated distortion. On sonic grounds, Her Mouth Is An Outlaw is more reminiscent of a prototypical Kranky release than one from 12k. Its loose, guitar-centered improvisatory flow has more in common with Labradford, Boduf Songs, and Autistic Daughters, for example, than it does with Sawako and Steinbruchel.

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