AMOR/LEMUR finds the Glasgow quartet AMOR in partnership with Norwegian improvising ensemble LEMUR to hopeful and ecstatic effect. Conceived before the onset of Covid 19 but finished during spring lockdown, their eponymous EP is the most loose, alive and elevated recording in AMOR’s catalog. AMOR/LEMUR takes the template of throbbing avant disco expanded upon on previous recordings for Night School and lifts it into new territories, with new tonalities and unexpected turns on the journey. More than anything, the expanded, near- cinematic expression of human connectivity feels like a lightning new energy to grasp in the dark.
Following a revelatory concert in Glasgow in January 2020 wherein the two sets of musicians met and performed together for the first time, a recording session was arranged the following day, resulting in the most elevated permutation of AMOR’s art to date. Each track was built upon a rhythmic bedrock of percussion and drums performed by Paul Thomson and samples/synthesizer by Luke Fowler. Thomson used bamboo Javanese gamelan (most notably on For You) and scrap metal, as well as traditional percussion and drums while Fowler incorporated processed ambient field recordings recorded in enclosed acoustic spaces around Glasgow. Singer/pianist Richard Youngs contributes some of the most bright and mindful work of his career. Acoustic bass player Michael Francis Duch, whose lush playing as ever provides the elastic spine to each song, scored the string parts for LEMUR on piano at home in Norway. The addition of swelling strings and drones fills out the AMOR sound significantly, lending a sonorous tone to 8 minute, epic closer For You or an ascending melodic introduction to Stars Burst that feels like a new morning dawning on a world saved from certain death. With the circumstances of lockdown forcing the musicians to work differently, a thread of optimism and utopia grounded in the moment weaves through these tracks. Unravel reveals a spine tingling vocal from Youngs. It’s a song about the simultaneously grounding and ecstatic effect of love, feeling connected to others. It’s a simple message, “I’m finding myself in your smile, always unravels me” speaks of ego death, the dissipation of the material into a nirvana of pure energy, the power of surrender. This isn’t a quasi-religious message, this is the power of each other, a love song to connection in a temporary age of isolation. Stars Burst is a play on the inner and outer cosmos, with narrator Youngs exploring wonder to a pounding galloping rhythm and snake-charming synth. It’s an open dance, with the group locked in together for the wild ride. Fear is the centerpiece of the record, starting with drones and scraped overtones before swirling synth notes filter upwards to meet reverberating minor chords. Over 8 minutes of tight but loose playing, Youngs is the shaman instructing us to use Fear as a celebration of the moment, embrace it and jump into the unknown. The only way to overcome your fear is to feel it, use it as an energy. The use of the studio as an instrument throughout side 2 is particularly important, with the dubbing and mixing prowess of engineer Paul Savage (who mixed unattended due to lockdown restrictions) and tape manipulations performed by Jason Lescallet coming into play. For You closes out with a largely instrumental, evolving composition that uses many of the abstract and novel aspects of this permutation to aid the trance. It’s massive, an unfurling creature with unexpected tonalities and serious heft.