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Returning after an extended hiatus, the British duo Amp (singer Karine Charff and multi-instrumentalist Richard Walker) offer the uncharacteristically band-oriented, almost poppy Us. With Walker joined by three regular collaborators (longtime Julian Cope sideman Donald Ross Skinner on guitar and bass, Ray Dickaty on saxophone, and Marc Challans on guitar, bass, drums, and occasional songwriting) and largely sticking to concise pop song structures, this is by some distance Amp's most conventional album, with only the last two tracks "Endgame" and "Iconisis" delving into the space rock bliss-outs of prior albums like Astralmoonbeamprojections. Only Walker's trademark fondness for the slow layering of musical elements from near-total silence into crazed cacophony (check out the last few minutes of "Yousay" for a particularly fine example) marks this as an Amp album. Challans' beat-heavy electronics tend to overpower Walker, and the placement of Charff at the forefront instead of her usual place lurking near the back of the mix only amplifies the thinness of her voice and her fundamentally meaningless lyrics. The album reaches its nadir with "Think Don't Think," a collage of layered TV and radio broadcasts mixed with Dickaty's heavily treated saxophone that sounds vaguely inspired by David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts but lacks that album's wit, craft, and conceptual clarity. While Us isn't an entirely bad album, the handful of good songs are offset by the overall sense that Amp is simply better than this brand of indie electro-pop, or at least has been in the past.

US, Amp
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