Amateur Hour - Krökta Tankar och Brända Vanor Music Album Reviews

Amateur Hour - Krökta Tankar och Brända Vanor Music Album Reviews
Gothenburg trio Amateur Hour translate their hometown’s DIY ethos into an hour-long dream-pop epic, balancing lo-fi scuzz with welcoming intimacy.

In recent years, Gothenburg’s underground music scene has offered a refreshing reminder of the power of the DIY ethos. The city’s musicians are publishing zines, being choosy about their interviews, and releasing albums in tiny batches of CD-Rs. Curiously, the YouTube channel for Discreet Music, the record shop and label that much of this world revolves around, has a lot of its content marked as “made for kids.” One repercussion of this is that you can’t get notifications for such videos; their songs won’t reach your inboxes or social media feeds through the PR-backed campaigns that many celebrated experimentalists rely on today. Instead, this music—often lo-fi, homespun, and without contextual narratives—demands to be sought out and understood on its own terms.

Gothenburg locals agree that the scene’s underground renaissance began with Neutral’s 2014 debut album, Grå Våg Gamlestaden. The duo featured Dan Johansson, a musician who has had different aliases and played in multiple groups throughout his decades-long career. On Amateur Hour, his band with Hugo Randulv and Julia Bjermelind, they reach an arresting midpoint between their ramshackle noise or ambient-folk projects (Sewer Election, Enhet För Fri Musik) and their more popular rock bands outside the scene (Westkust, Makthaverskan). With their third album, Krökta Tankar och Brända Vanor, they aim for an hour-long dream pop epic, doubling down on both the scuzzy production and intimate atmospheres that have made them such alluring figures since their 2016 debut.

The confluence of the raucous and introspective is apparent right from the start. After the introductory ambient wash of “Skeva,” the band employs shoegaze fuzz on “Baby You’re All I Want.” Its percussive taps and genteel vocal melodies recall ’60s girl groups, and they opt for the same trick that made Les Rallizes Dénudés cult icons: bury the pop sensibility in a wall of noise. When the track unfurls into an amp-blown freak-out, it doubles as meditative psychedelia. The same holds true for “Brända Tankar,” which is an entirely instrumental exercise in guitar-driven cacophony, though its second half tones down the volume to settle into a drone indebted to Hindustani classical music.

Many Amateur Hour songs unravel in similarly unexpected ways. Take “Bortom Oss,” which begins with manipulated vocal gargles and periodic, high-pitched tones. Soon, an ambient pad rushes in like a beam of light cutting through clouds, and the reverberating guitar chords that follow buoy the heavenly mood. Most emblematic of this flowering song structure is the 15-minute “...But if Teenage Is Forever You Will Look for Something Better,” which begins as a pop song with alien synth warbles, capturing the joy and strangeness of aimless teenage nights. After two minutes it devolves into a gurgling swamp of tape detritus, percussion, and synth flurries, reminiscent of the longform drones that defined cassette labels throughout the 2000s. But at the 10-minute mark, the melodies reemerge from the muck; after such turbulent clamor, these melodies—representative of youthful comforts—scan as wistful nostalgia. Even though lyrics are hard to parse throughout Krökta Tankar och Brända Vanor, their contemplative emotions ring loud and clear.

Though Amateur Hour’s latest LP clocks in at double the length of their previous albums, its 16 tracks are cohesive. “Drinkars Boning” aims for the Durutti Column with a folksy charm, and it sits nicely alongside “Utan Andetag,” whose processed strings channel a moment of celestial floating. This overarching ethereal feeling suffuses every track. "Tidens Tempo" is little more than a resounding bell and some wind, but the simple addition of a childlike synth melody grants it a beguiling aura. The vocal-driven songs are especially inviting, with the Grouper-esque “Buried Alive” being a standout: Bjermelind’s voice lopes around like a wandering specter over flickering electronics. Listening to Amateur Hour always sounds like stumbling upon something special by chance. When Krökta Tankar och Brända Vanor concludes with a short feedback-riddled outro, this unceremonious end proves apt: Amateur Hour capture the magic of music meant to remain small and private, yet otherworldly.

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Amateur Hour - Krökta Tankar och Brända Vanor Music Album Reviews Amateur Hour - Krökta Tankar och Brända Vanor Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 Rating: 5

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