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The American Analog Set | Know By Heart / Through The 90s (Tiger Style / Emperor Jones)
When AmAnSet titled their third album 'The Golden Band' to acknowledge the five year 'marriage' of the Texan collective they also reinforced the singular identity their credit-less sleeve art had imposed. Such superficial anonymity certainly adds an all-important element of mystery to this unique outfit. Despite a parting of ways with founder keyboardist Lisa (victim of a seven year itch?) and label Emperor Jones, AmAnSet seem to have been revitalised on the evidence of 'Know By Heart'; their most immediate and concise statement to date. While the lengthy, blissed-out atmospherics of their previous albums hardly proved an ordeal for the ears, it was the occasional dips into candy-sweet pop stylings that lifted them from obscurity as another slow-core, drone-rock combo. Where previous ventures into this territory may have been considered out of tune within an album framework (we can see the opener of 'Through The 90s', The Only Living Boy Around, as an audio signpost of their potential as pop craftsmen), 'Know By Heart' positively bubbles with infectious melodies and hooks, always underpinned by the trademark Farfisa drone and lilting rhythm section. It's a delicious combination, oh so cool and pretty but with a core of sadness and a knowing air of nonchalance. To pick highlights would be inappropriate as this record is as faultless and seamless as music can be, a succession of gifts like Christmas every four minutes. The trawl through the archives, 'Through The 90s', collates a handful of 7" singles along with some aborted projects and live material. While it doesn't enjoy the cohesive, seductive ways of 'Know By Heart' or its predecessors, there's a sense of experimentation and playfulness backed up by the chatty, humorous sleeve-notes and 'holiday snap' images. What remains a constant, however, is the economy of playing and respect for space that is a trademark of the AmAnSet sound. Whether this is the result of hard work and practice or the natural result of a most inspired meeting of minds becomes irrelevant as wave after wave draws you under their spell.
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002