Amperland, NY | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021  

Pinegrove

Amperland, NY

Rough Trade

Jan 25, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Most bands nearly a decade into their journey would have long since abandoned their first songs. Even though Pinegrove have continued to produce new and meaningful work, they also have made time to revisit and refine some of their earliest tracks and the reworking of those are what stand out most on the era-capping Amperland, NY. Recorded in their long term rental home and makeshift studio, the album serves as an homage to the space where full-length albums Skylight and Marigold were recorded. And though not chronological, the album is sequenced such that band and singer, Evan Stephens Hall, begin to meld and build the momentum of a loosely confident live performance.

Pulling a third of the tracks from the band’s pre-Cardinal era, this is where Amperland, NY, shines brightest. And somewhat ironically on those songs not originally recorded in the house but now made part of it. Six songs into its over 20-song course, the band runs “Sunday” over a half dozen minutes from nothing but an amp buzz, to a jazz-like middle, to a crashing close, and it’s here that a sonic shift takes the album from a compilation of remakes to an orchestrated performance. “On Jet Lag” grooves and strains under “Montclairian buzz skies” and the scant “Overthrown” becomes a towering thing with co-founding drummer, Zack Levine, hammering each scrap of sound into place. Even the folkier “Need” is made more substantial with the addition of harmony vocals and Nick Levine’s pedal steel.

The balance of the album is given over to songs from Skylight and Marigold, and though more recent there are embellishments made. “No Drugs” has the faster pace and lilting cadence that fans will recognize from the Skylight Sessions take on the song. But the heart of Amperland, NY, lies towards its end where the sequence of “Endless,” “Amulets/Light On,” and “Paterson & Leo,” seamlessly hold court. “Endless” is colored up with the filagreed sounds that made the self-titled outro for Marigold. It provides a connection to the rebirth that the album represented and the song itself serves as mantra for extended confinement inside Amperland’s walls. The brief “Amulets” leads into an extended “Light On,” from Skylight, with tight harmonies, soaring pedal steel and piano runs that open up the song’s possibilities. And Stephens Hall’s plaintive vocal on “Paterson & Leo” completes the song’s journey from a slight Cardinal-era demo to a fully formed emotive ramble around with characters that hardly seem fictional.  It’s a poignant example of why the band doesn’t let its ideas perish and would have made a perfect closer here.  That “Phase” and “Intrepid” feel more cathartic encore than part of where Amperland, NY, was pulling us then that’s as performances go sometimes.     

With no new songs and material from their breakthrough album, Cardinal, being absent, Amperland, NY, has the feel of something made for themselves and their most ardent fans. And for that target market, there are plenty of subtle changes, Stephens Hall vocal and lyrical shifts, and a sense of place that is palpable. Time, of course, marches on, band members get married and move out, landlords sell the earth out from under you, but the spiritual embodiment of what took place on a specific plot of land remains. And even if you never have seen the spot yourself, Amperland, NY, holds the magic of returning to one’s childhood home to find it cleared away but with the warm echoes of what occurred there and with certain landmarks immemorial. (www.pinegroveband.com

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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