It could be seen as a massive act of over-confidence to name your band The Amazing. They’re partially a Swedish supergroup – Christoffer Gunrup was originally in Granada whilst Reine Fiske and Fredrik Björling are best known for their work in Dungen. However, that moniker isn’t entirely unjustified considering their past form. 2009 saw them bring out a rich and challenging self-titled debut, which they followed up a couple of years later with the equally melancholic Gentle Stream. All has been quiet since then, as their respective ‘day jobs’ took up the majority of their attention.
Picture You, their first record in four years, sees them continuing their mix of prog, folk, psychedelia and much more besides. It’s a supremely intelligent fusion of genres that is impressively refined. The lack of any obvious digital touches is a pretty obvious clue as to where their influences lie. Their sound is remeniscent of Pink Floyd and Nick Drake, which should give newcomers a sense of how dynamic their songs are.
Is it particularly forward-thinking? Not really. Yet they clearly know their rock history and it comes across in spades. The gliding Safe Island has an extremely shoegazy vibe, with Gunrup’s vocals so drenched in reverb that they sound ghostly. Listening to Fryshusfunk is a joy as it changes shape several times over the course of eight minutes; in fact, it’s so Floydian that it could have easily slotted onto Meddle.
They can also do melodies that stick in your head; the refrain of Tell Them You Can’t Leave and the harmonies of The Headless Boy are gorgeous. Those two songs also reveal their more subtler side, as does To Keep It Going, which is five minutes of calm folk, with floaty keyboards giving the track a sense of airlessness. The most starry-eyed moment is saved for last – the atmospheric closer, Winter Dress, combines spacey synths with a yearning slide guitar for a dreamy finish.
Whilst the merits of individual tunes could be discussed at great length, but this is really an album that’s meant to be played in full, late at night. As a whole (and it’s a rather chunky whole, at just over an hour) it is deeply compelling; putting tracks on shuffle is doing the LP a great disservice.
From blistering solos and organ freak outs to peaceful guitar strumming and dramatic drum fills, there’s so much going on that it will take time for everything to fully sink in. They cover a lot of ground, and it’s a testament to the band’s skills as musicians and arrangers that it all doesn’t come across as too overbearing. Given that they only spent three days recording in the studio together (although they added some overdubs after), the fact that it gels together so well is pretty astonishing.
Picture You succeeds in combining influences from a variety of genres to make an end result that’s lush and timeless – this could have easily been released in the late ’60s/early ’70s – without resorting to cheap pastiche. Despite their bold and brash-sounding name, The Amazing go about their business without too much fanfare, and they deserve to pick up a much bigger audience.