Amber Spyglass - Breathing in Essence
By: Brett Spaceman
Tricky one this. Amber Spyglass trade in world fusion folk rock with ghostly, ethereal vocals. Think Espen and The Witch. Think Evi Vine. To their great credit Amber Spyglass sound like nobody else. They aren’t copyists at least. It’s nearly my thing, except that the musical structure is a little too loose, too progressive for my taste. John DeGregorio can clearly play and wide-reaching ambition is fine. But reaching here, there and everywhere, only to grab hold of very little, can be frustrating. No matter. We are fair thinking, broad minded journalists at [sic]. We aren’t here to tell people what to like or what to buy. Music writing is more than that.
Breathing in Essence gets off to a horrible start. ‘Harmonic Tide’ borders on incoherent. It’s as though Kelly Godshall’s vocals are lifted from a completely different song. ‘Unfortunate One’ has a more classic verse/chorus structure and I like the blazing guitar riff when the chorus part kicks in. Amber Spyglass site Kate Bush as an influence. And why not. Go for the best. I see it too in tracks such as this. Musically its more toward Big Country when they shifted toward Scottish roots rock. But Kate Bush sang with Adamson on ‘The Seer’ and the result there isn’t a million miles from some of Breathing in Essence. I would say Godshall is more towards the Julianne Regan style of vocal, apart from the strep-throated ‘On the Wire’ (shudders) So, flouncy goth, rather than razor-blade seductress. The EP hits form again on ‘Violent Silence’ which has the bands best melody and really proves they could be onto something.
They finish off with ‘Like Lost Lovers’, which sounds generically decent, but no more. I think they liked that lyric far too much. We’re in Shelleyan Orphan territory. No bad thing. But hardly likely to tear many trees up. I wonder sometimes about male/female duos. Are they a couple? Does it matter? Certainly not for the likes of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. But those acts were beyond peerless. At a more amature level, I wonder whether making music with your loved one can suffer from a lack of quality control? Two and a half interesting songs on an EP isn’t the kind of ROI to pull me back for more. I would love to be proven very wrong about this. Go ahead Amber Spyglass, drop a legendary album in my lap and leave me red-faced.
Breathing in Essence is out September