Amplifier is a Manchester-based duo that formed way back in 1999. Since then, they’ve released seven studio albums and, in their own words, “countless EPs, each one as titanic and epic as the last.” Their most recent album, Hologram, was released on April 7th, 2023, and, as you may have already deduced, is the reason for today’s discussion.
I recently learned of Amplifier, so Hologram is the only album I’ve heard from them. Right now, the band consists of founding members Sel Balamir (guitar, bass, and lead vocals) and Matt Brobin (drums); together, they play a mix of progressive, space, and psychedelic rock. The six songs on Hologram are wonderful examples of those genres but also have a 1990s alt-rock feel that makes the music accessible to a wider variety of fans.
Amplifier kicks things off with Two-Way Mirror, a foray into progressive alt-rock with a stoner twist, beginning the album with just the right amount of intensity to grab people’s attention. Amplifier includes an intelligent use of dynamics, and the peaks and valleys it makes for interesting and engaging music. I think that fans of the Foo Fighters will get into this track and possibly the album as a whole.
Sweet Perfume utilizes a heavier vibe than some of the others and has some sections that feel a bit chaotic. There’s also an experimental overtone running through this one, which sometimes can be overwhelming, but this a cool song despite its odd qualities. I especially liked that the end of this track shifts into a semi-psychedelic-fueled section that flows perfectly into the next song.
The guys bring things down to an atmospheric state during the next song, Hologram. The delay in the guitars echoes for what seems like an eternity, helping the music create a chilled-out feel. That feeling doesn’t change much as we hit the verses, in which Sel’s vocal performance adds the perfect counterpart to the song as a whole. Other reviewers have commented on the “dreamy melodies” on this record, and this track is the epitome of what they’re talking about.
I absolutely love Tundra! There’s a pop sensibility blended with the desert, psych, and prog-rock influences displayed throughout this album, as well as the “dreamy melodies” that everyone is gushing over. That mix makes for an incredibly catchy song, as does the vocal performances. My only issue with this song is its short run time, but only because I wanted more of this incredible song.
Let Me Drive pulls from many of the influences that Amplifier has used on this record, but I hear the 90s alt-rock sound the most, especially in the first part of the song. The added use of acoustic guitar is a nice touch, it’s not used a lot, but its placement is excellent. There are also some great riffs, a wonderful vocal performance, and solid songwriting from start to finish.
Gargantuan (Part 1) is a fantastic track; from the music to the metaphor-filled lyrics, it’s just an incredible musical journey. Sel’s vocal performance is the best of the six tracks; clear, clean, and full of the emotion that the lyrical content demands. Then there are the music’s majestic feel, which is equally emotive and beautiful. There isn’t enough room for me to explain how this song made me feel, and I hope it provides you with even a fraction of the joy I experienced while listening to it.
Hologram is one hell of an introduction to the music of Amplifier! It’s so good that I don’t want to dig into their back catalog, as I’m afraid it won’t hold up to the 2023 version of this veteran act. The way these two men approach the songwriting, arranging, and execution is an example of top-tier musicianship and how to write songs that make listeners want to come back for many repeat listens.
So I highly recommend Hologram if you’re an old Amplifier fan, or even if you’re a newbie like myself, as it has everything that one can expect from this genre, plus a whole lot more!
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This review was written by Tom Hanno, who has been writing reviews for the last 7 years but has been sharing his love of music for the majority of his life. Originally starting out at the now-defunct Chimera Magazine, he is currently contributing to Doomed and Stoned, The Sleeping Shaman, The Doom Charts, Tom’s Reviews, and The Third Eye. Read more of Tom’s reviews by checking out his Linktree.
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