Grain fuzzes and birds chirp. A mystical synth flutters. Then a powerful guitar crushes them, droning onward with distorted beauty that settles into a layered soundscape. Tape loops are Randall Taylor’s instrument of choice for his experimental, ambient, and drone project Amulets, but there new sonic elements introduced in the title track of his new album Blooming.
The opening track builds until it breaks and the listener can hear the peaceful sounds that began the track behind the fading guitar fuzz. Blooming has some seamless transitions. The listener may not even notice when the title track ends and “The New Normal” begins. Here there are bass drones and gorgeous strings.
Taylor has taken his tape-based ambient music into a new realm with great production, new forms of instrumentation, and some tight performances. Always, always you hear the buzz of the analog tapes in the background.
“Heaviest Wait” has some chugging bass and scratchy field recordings, but then a synth comes over the top and makes the track quite beautiful. Not only are the songs on this album dynamic, they keep the listener’s attention while giving them room to dream. Finally, a modulated guitar dances with a xylophone-like synthesizer to close out the track.
Again the heavy, droning bass combined with the light, high synth and guitars are present on “Observer Effect.” It emerges as a theme. These dynamics create a varied and interesting palate that is both powerful and pretty. By “Tears in the Fabric” the album is going on so smoothly the listener forgets what track they’re on. With “Collapse in Memory,” the album’s longest track, Amulets opens up and gives space to build up the drone
One issue with this album is just that, it is almost a one-trick-pony consisting of trudging bass, light synth sounds, field recordings, and dreamy guitars. The omnipresent buzz of the tapes could have been equalized out of the masters. It seems that by the penultimate track, “Empty Tribute” the project seems to run out of ideas. It becomes drone for drone’s sake. There could be more of a creative approach to putting this together record beyond the beautiful and meditative drone sequences.
“Whirl” just may answer that complaint. There is an acoustic guitar and whispered spoken word you can barely hear. It is the only track that takes on a life of its own. It stands out amongst the crowd. A heavy, fuzzed out guitar comes over the top to bring it all back full circle. With more instrumentation, this suggests a diversification in Amulet’s catalogue, where the songwriting is more poignant and the ideas more varied. He is certainly an artist to look out for in the future.