Say it's a Saturday afternoon, and a gentle rain is falling, and you're on your porch with a bucket of ice and a bottle of scotch. The raindrops are beading on the leaves and pooling into little rills down the screen, you're getting a little fuzzy because of the scotch, you turn toward your little stereo that you dragged outside and you pick out the perfect CD.
This isn't the time for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Austin's The American Analog Set makes rainy-day soundtracks by using analog keyboards and recording devices, hushed guitars and droning vocals -- it's almost an opiate. The best American Analog Set songs sweep song structures aside for hypnotic repetition and quietly thrilling beauty. It's primitive downtempo cool; AmAnSet could play in the chill-out room of that rave from The Matrix: Reloaded.
Unfortunately, the new Promise of Love doesn't have any of their best songs. It's not out of line to say that one of the dangers of making droning, repetitive music is that it just might get droning and repetitive. The AmAnSet hasn't moved into any new territory, and, in fact, its sonic palette seems to have shrunk after two classic albums, 1996's The Fun of Watching Fireworks and 1997's From Our Living Room to Yours. Those records were loose and low-slung, full of comfortable songs that stretched out and grooved (using the verb "grooved" in the whitest way possible). Promise of Love, their fifth full-length album, still has all the basic elements that made the earlier albums great -- but in smaller amounts. Only two tracks break the five-minute mark, and of those, only the closer, "Modern Drummer," gets into a sustainable mind-altering eight minutes. Promise of Love isn't a bad album (AmAnSet still stands head and shoulders above most of the horribly named "slowcore" movement), but it would have to be a really long rainy day before you'd put it in the stereo.
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