Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Ammi-Imitation

December 1, 2006

ammiBand Name: Ammi

Album Name: Imitation

Best Element: Everything you like about indie-rock, made better

Genre: Indie Rock

Website: www.ammimusic.com

Label Name: Common Cloud Records

Band E-mail: feedback@ammimusic.com

Oh yes, Common Cloud. You’re probably tired of hearing us rave Common Cloud releases by now, but that’s only if you haven’t actually checked out the bands we’re raving. If you did, in fact, go listen to Thin Cities, The Felix Culpa, or Ammi, you would understand why we keep loving their releases.

Yes, you’d understand that we like Common Cloud releases because they’re all fantastic. Ammi’s Imitation is no exception- like labelmates The Felix Culpa, they’ve taken their genre of choice and infused life into it. In Ammi’s case, the genre is hip, Strokes-ian indie rock. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Ammi is right up there with the Strokes in terms of simple creativity. It’s unfortunate that Ammi didn’t have an extremely poppy, populist first album to push them into the public eye before they started delivering indie-rock goodness.

Indie-rock goodness is what they deliver, with gritty, crunchy guitars, jerky stop/start rhythms, and the occasional high-hat-heavy dancebeat. The vocals alternate between wry spoken-word, sung vocals that range from entirely calm to totally desperate, and an injured yelp that covers the places where yelling/screaming would usually go. The yelp doesn’t appear too often, thankfully- they rely on other means of intensity.

The songwriting here is the real treat, as it is the place where they decide to get creative with things. You won’t be surprised by the vocal melodies too often, and that’s a good thing, as you’ll sing along. But when Ammi starts stringing together dissonant chords, chords that don’t belong together, and notes that aren’t even chords in a completely cohesive manner (“Screwtape,” for example), that’s where the joy of the album appears. That’s not the only paean to Ammi’s songwriting ability: their use or auxiliary instruments is highly commendable. They use organ, trumpet, and synth in a way that feels completely natural, which is hard to say of many bands.

Ammi’s keeps the listener in a state of expectancy by mixing up the pace and mood of the album. While the dark, dissonant overtones persist throughout, songs like title track “Imitation” and especially “The Somnambulist” are slow, pensive tracks that showcase the angst that Ammi can control. “When It Falls Apart” shows off the fact that Ammi’s guitarist can write a completely interesting mid-tempo song solely with unaccompanied guitar chords and rhythm, while “For What It’s Worth” sounds melancholy without sounding cheesy (although they flirt with the edge on some dangerously bright synth noises), and the repetitive “The Ascent of the Prodigal” builds from humble, minimalist beginnings to a intricate, celebratory song with a electronic/hip-hop vibe.

“Static” represents everything I like about indie-rock: snarky bass line, herky-jerky guitar line, intense but restrained vocal line, group vocals, nonsense syllables to sing along with, a slow build-up throughout, and a rocking part that you can throw your fist up to and possibly even mosh to. They know how to construct a song people will like but still completely blow people away, which is a gift that not many bands can claim.

Ammi has enough high moments on this album to make this review continue on for about another page, but I’ll leave them to you to find. Just know that if you miss out on getting in on the Ammi action, you’ll feel left in the cold when they go and get big. Ammi has all the pieces together- if they hit the road and hit the blogs, they’ll be in a dead heat with The Felix Culpa to be Common Cloud’s first breakout artist. Until then, they’ll rest on the laurels of this fantastic debut LP.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

"Ammi-Laodicea EP"

February 1, 2005

ammiBand Name: Ammi
Album Name: Laodicea
Best element:Indie rock with Passion galore.
Genre: Indie Rock
Website: www.ammimusic.com
Label:CommonCloudRecords(www.commoncloud.com)
Band e-mail:

First the Felix Culpa, now Ammi. I don’t know what’s in the water up there by Common Cloud Records, but it’s causing people to churn out some ridiculously good indie music. Both of the aforementioned bands have not only had disarmingly good albums, they’ve disarmingly good debut albums. Once I can take for a fluke, but two? That’s pretty crazy.

In contrast to The Felix Culpa’s wild emo landscapes, Ammi takes a solid stab at indie rock with their EP Laodicea. The album is an indie-rock purist’s dream- traveling through all schools of indie rock without ever grabbing influence from any other style of music. There are slow, melancholy dirges (“Born”, which has a surprisingly snappy drum beat for a slow song); there are straight-up rock tracks like the invigorating “Faux”; there are dreamy interludes (“Greetings, Etc”, “Easy Listening”); and finally, there are epic, climactic barnburners (“The Nature of Apathy”, “So Close”).

The barnburners are, of course, the stand-outs here. “The Nature of Apathy” opens with a unique, sparse, dissonant guitar line that explodes into a clanging, punchy section, which drops back to the dissonant guitars, augmented by a tinny bell kit. Then, right when it seems that slow is the way to go, they break out into a wiry technical section with interweaving drum and guitar rhythms. That section cuts, and the singer (who sings excellently) breaks out into screams, which are done perfectly. He doesn’t overscream, or fake-scream; these perfectly-timed, well-placed screams do nothing but enhance the song, which then fades away after a few seconds of intense passion.

And while not all of their songs are that complex, they’re all immaculately planned and performed. The vocals (which I alluded to earlier) are well done throughout, as they are unique without being inaccessible. After hearing this album, I’m pretty sure I could pick out the Ammi vocalist in any song he sings.

Overall, Ammi’s got the indie-rock thing down. They play with passion, with creativity, and with genuinely exciting material. It also helps that the production is immaculate (who IS that guy turning the knobs on this?), and the art is beautiful (A member of Ammi did that too). Ammi is the next big indie-rock darling, if they can get promoted right. They’re just too good to pass up on.

-Stephen Carradini

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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