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Amplifier - The Astronaut Dismantles Hal CD (album) cover

THE ASTRONAUT DISMANTLES HAL

Amplifier

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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TheProgtologist
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The bold,adventurous and atmospheric new offering from Manchester,England's Amplifier,whose line-up consists of Sel Balamir(guitars and vocals),Neil Mahony(bass) and Matt Brobin(drums), is a six track EP titled The Astronaut Dismantles HAL and is clearly influenced by space voyage in more than just the title. The guitars and atmosphere in the songs also have a very spacey feel.The six songs on the EP stretch to almost 40 minutes with opening track "Continuum" taking up nearly nine minutes. With thundering drums, underpinned by a steadfast bass line, Sel Balamir's vocals stand confidently on top allowing his cinematic guitar playing to complete the mix and leave the listener with more of a visual interpretation of what they are trying to convey. "Into the Space Age" starts off with some synth and brings more heavy guitars to the fore as the song builds. That really is how the EP fleshes out. Songs begin with a little atmospheric riff and slowly gets heavier and heavier."For Marcia" follows and is a slow,mellow,gentle song that is highly evocative of early Porcupine Tree."The Brain Room" is a short,minute long instrumental track,featuring guitar distortion and feedback and a little cymbal ride."Everday Combat" kicks off with a military snare drum pattern,chugging Zeppelin-esque guitar riffs,and a snaking hypnotic melody that grows stronger as it repeats,topped off with Balamir's smooth vocals."Live Human" alternates between laconic,brooding passages and bursts of heaviness,propelled by great drumming from Brobin and topped off with Balamir's contemplative vocal,and after an extended silence a beautiful semi-acoustic secret track emerges.Combining elements and influences from bands like PorcupineTree,Oceansize,Pink Floyd,Black Sabbath and Tool,Amplifier are a great new band and one I am sure we will hear a lot more of in the future.An excellent addition to any prog music collection.4 stars.

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Send comments to TheProgtologist (BETA) | Report this review (#56001)
Posted Saturday, November 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Amplifier - The Astronaut dismantles HAL

Albeit it is no full-length album, Amplifier have outdone themselves with the release of the successor of their in 2004 released self titled debut album. With the release of this year's (2005) "The Astronaut dismantles HAL" EP, the Manchester based Amplifier have continued their sonic journey alongside the boundaries of conventional (hard) rock.

In contrast to their debut album, the songs on this EP give a more coherent first impression. They are lesser atmospheric and more easily accessible than the ones on their previous release. This does not necessarily mean that the songs are of lesser value based on their compositions. the songs have their own charms. because they are more straightforward this gives a more instant attraction to the music, but in the background there are lots of subtle things happening, mostly, as typical for this band, these are amplifiers used over Sal Balamir's guitar. Sounds of water and echoes of space travel are not unusual on this mini-album.

I experience this album as one dynamic trip through blurred spaces, at least, that is how I can visualize the soundscapes accompanying the lyrics. The instruments sometimes keep repeating the same patterns which causes them to create some kind of trance to listen to. The songs feature a natural progression if looked at the EP's title. The epic opening track Continuum starts of with what sounds like the launch of some kind of space traveling machine, whereas the closing song Live Human gives an impression of a space traveler longing back for his planet Earth and his disillusion of the emptiness of space.

As a last remark I'd like to say that the hidden track at the end of the disc shows Amplifier in a way never heard before, mostly acoustic guitars with omnipresent drums.

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Send comments to Tristan Mulders (BETA) | Report this review (#62414)
Posted Friday, December 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I was surprised to see this band is a trio with no keyboards or synths. Surprised because this is a Psychedelic / Spacerock band, and most bands of this genre use synths and keyboards to achieve that spacey and dreamy sound. Apparently the guitarist creates the spacey sound through his guitar, much like a Canadian band called Sianspheric does to splendid results.

"Continuum" is the almost 9 minute opener, it begins with experimental noise and then comes the spacey atmosphere that reminds me of some Post-Rock bands. It's building as heavy drums come in followed by vocals. Great sound ! It kicks in even heavier a minute later (hell ya !) as these contrasts continue. Just a killer track. "Into The Space Age" kicks in fairly quickly with a heavy rhythm as distorted vocals join in. Guitar starts to play over top. "For Marcia" is a laid back and dreary tune. Kind of dark actually. Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. "The Brain Room" is basically some weird affects for less than a minute.

"Everyday Combat" has a line repeated through it "fighting the man" and brings to mind PORCUPINE TREE and also ANATHEMA. Again the drumming is fabulous in this heavy tune. "Live Human" is another great song. Spacey with some good riffs, quite heavy. Again ANATHEMA comes to mind. I like the contrasts throughout. There is a hidden track that doesn't even sound like the same band. It's a lot lighter, sounds cool. Highly recommended.

They thank Bruce Dickinson and Melissa Auf Der Maur in the liner notes among others. For a long time this was the only recording I could get of this band so I valued it highly and got to know it quite well.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#95183)
Posted Thursday, October 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
obiter
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I'm green with envy ... over the last month Amplifier have been touring with Porcupine Tree in England.....

So Mr Grumpy sits down to review Amplifier's second (ish) album (40 mins would make a decent LP back when I wer't lad). Now I was effusive over the debut album which I found very apporachable and jsut great. However, I reckon this offering is not quite so easy to get to know. That's not a bad thing. When I went to university in engladn I found the English quite hard to get to know but if you persevered you were generally well rewarded by solid and complex if somewhat reticent chaps.So it is with this album.

Having been at the Hacienda in the late 80s and early 90s, this band is not only far better than the trendy and iconic Charlatans, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets but they've got some serious class about them.

I've decided its a mood thing. Stone cold and the vibe is OK, but a couple of friends round & a bottle of Esporao Reserva vinho tinto ... nothing short of marvellous. Continuum , I'm sorry Que sera sera ... what with Chelsea & Man U about to cross swords.

Into the Space Age requires a nice clean Chablis. Gorgeous. A disarming sound belies a deep rocky strength. Marica relaxes nah it should be prescribed as a harmless soporific ... mmmm nice. No side-effects but could be withdrawals symptoms. I love this.

Toni Iommi is back in ..The Brain Room... where's FX???

OK Everyday Combat just does not float my boat. Don't get it. Live Human is the culmination of the album but for me not one to write home about. THe wee acoustic number at the end is eye opening. So why is it not on the album. Why so sneaky?

UP to the last two tracks this was a definite 5 but it sort of slid away so it's a 4 for me, although For Marcia almost deserves a 5 on its own..

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Send comments to obiter (BETA) | Report this review (#122453)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The title of this EP gives the listener a good indication of just how spaced out this recording can be. This is a slightly simpler recording than the début album but their music is still just as powerful on this EP. As with the début all 3 members of the band put in a great performance.

The EP begins with Continuum, which starts with the sound of a feedbacking guitar before moving into a slow atmospheric melody, eventually getting heavier with their effects laden sound dominating proceedings. The ending is again dominated by the sound of a feedbacking guitar.

Into The Space Age starts with a dazzling array of effects before dropping in to a simple and heavy riff, the bass stands out very well in early section. Eventually the effects do return and the vibe of this song is enhanced by their presence.

For Marcia is a very gentle piece by Amplifier's standards, it's very atmospheric and shows off the spacier side of the band's music very well, at times reminiscent of Porcupine Tree this is a real highlight of the EP.

The Brain Room builds up to the heavy riff Everyday Combat with the use of lots of feedback and other effects. During Everyday Combat Amplifier sound similar to what I'd imagine Black Sabbath would sound like through a vast array of effects: propulsive and a bit weird. This song is another of my favourites.

Live Human has one of the most spaced out openings I've heard by Amplifier which gives way to one of Ampilier's heaviest riffs. Going back to spaced out sounds it is hard to believe that Amplifier don't have a keyboardist.

After a brief silence the hidden track at the end of Live Human starts and is completely different to anything else on the EP in that it is totally acoustic, of course there are still plenty of effects used in this song but they are much more subtle. This shows a previously unseen side to Amplifier, I hope they write more songs in this style in the future as it is brilliant.

Overall this is a wonderful EP and would serve as a good introduction to Amplifier as it is more accessible than their début album but still remains faithful to their usual sound. Amplifier's music is far better in a live setting as the power of the songs is better conveyed but this EP is still very good.

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Send comments to N Ellingworth (BETA) | Report this review (#132638)
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first heard Amplifier as the support band for Porcupine Tree in Bristol last year, and I wasn't paying too much attention because I was so desperately waiting for my favourite modern band to turn up. Also I didn't know their music.

However, there was enough here to make me stand up and listen - especially in the latter two songs of their set - as it sounded so spacey! I don't remember what these songs were - but guys if you are reading this - then use that formula.

I eventually decided to buy some of their music - especially as they have been compared to Oceansize - also one of my favourite bands.

Let me say this - from this EP - they are a little like Oceansize and Porcupine Tree, but I would say that they are their own band, and maybe shouldn't be compared. Maybe they aren't quite as good as PT or Oceansize, but I think maybe that's a little unfair for me to say that yet, because I haven't heard their full albums yet.

However - I DO think that this EP is REALLY GOOD - and very different. It is extremely spacey, and the lyrics tremendously support that. That there is only one guitar in this is a total surprise. All the Synth sounding parts are created by guitar, and that is a really fantastic idea - and it works really well.

Don't turn it up too loud - there is a lot of feedback, and it may damage your ears! But I remember Dave Gilmour once saying on the Live at Pompeii (modern version) that feedback is what it's all about or something.

This band has a lot of potential, and I can highly recommend them - for those that love a lot of heavy power but not raw metal noise (unlike Prog metal). I'm not sure that metal fans will understand this music, but equally Indie lovers and pop lovers won't either. It's not romantic music to play to your girlfriend!

The music is great, and deserves a very good rating - although I think it does have a couple of minor faults, that if ironed out will send Amplifier into the greats of music.

OK

WHAT's REALLY GOOD.... The guitar work, the feedback and the generated synth sounds. His pleasant voice (no annoying strained falsettos, or death metal roaring). The lyrics - totally lush - really science-fiction and fitting with the spacey music. The mixture of grace and power and build-up - all awesome! The science-fiction feel.

The slight faults (I mean they really are only minor - this is meant to be constructive!).... Sometimes the drums seem a little dulled out (a harder and more clashy sound might work sometimes). Although I really like Sal Balamir's voice, he occasionally sings the words a little short and doesn't carry it into the bassier parts of the sound (occasionally needs a bit more bassier/ lenghtier/ melodramatic - to move with the guitar sound somehow). Also the songs seem a bit too repetitious - might need a little bit more variation within (this is where Oceansize excel - sorry I shouldn't compare it's not fair). Also, a short guitar solo that flows into the near-end of Continuum would have been nice, but maybe I'm a little too old-fashioned! I know guitar solos can sound old-fashioned, cheesy and often don't work, but I feel an occasional short one that flows with the music might be beneficial. I mean 60 seconds of guitar solo over a full album surely would be acceptable?

One great song is the hidden Scarecrows at the end of the EP. This more gentle acoustic like song is really really moving. They should do a few more songs in this field. Maybe they could start with a song like this and build up the power as the song extends. I'm sorry - it's not for me to tell a band what to do, and I really don't mean to be critical. It's also unfair - I ought to reserve my judgement until I've heard Insider.

All said and done - a fantastically interesting EP - well worth the money, and I highly recommend it. I love the Astronaut Dismantle HAL title. I'm a great fan of 2001 - Space Odyssey - especially the HAL/ Jupiter mission part. *******I strongly recommend that you get a copy of the movie, turn off the sound and watch the HAL/ Jupiter mission part, and listen to this EP at the same time - it really works!********

VERY VERY GOOD!!

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Send comments to PinkPangolin (BETA) | Report this review (#163528)
Posted Sunday, March 09, 2008 | Review Permalink
ProgBagel
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Amplifier - 'The Astronaut Dismantles Hal' 3 stars

A step in the right direction.

I was very angsty about the debut for not really being anything different from a typical grunge/alternative album. This album protests my statement a little bit. Amplifier seems to have a better sound, but really doesn't break the mold of the genre they are in. The space rock tag is a little more appealing on this EP then the debut album, but it really doesn't have the atmosphere and trippy feel or any of the like.

The Black Sabbath and Toolish riffs are just as abundant, the vocals are a bit more tolerable and recognizable. None of the songs really stand out from each other which is a bit of a bugger, the exception would ironically be the hidden track of the end of the album. Not much else to describe about this band or its music. Proceed with caution.

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Send comments to ProgBagel (BETA) | Report this review (#179484)
Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2008 | Review Permalink

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