This Friday, Greater Cincinnati’s Ampline returns to the record-store bins with Passion Relapse, its first album since 2010’s You Will Be Buried and fifth full-length overall. It’s also Ampline’s best work to date, which isn’t completely shocking given the musicians’ experience and extensive history.
Together since 2001, Ampline’s members have refined the band’s chemistry with extensive touring (in the U.S. and abroad), but they’ve always had a leg up in that department. The trio’s Rick McCarty and Mike Montgomery (joined in the group by Kevin Schmidt) have been bandmates even longer, playing together in groups like Thistle, El Gigante and The Light Wires. It also doesn’t hurt to have a studio wiz in the ranks — a veteran sound engineer, Montgomery’s Candyland recording studio in Northern Kentucky has developed a strong reputation in the Indie Rock world, attracting not only area bands like Buffalo Killers and Mad Anthony (among many others), but also national/international talent like Protomartyr, Courtney Barnett and The Breeders (Montgomery also writes, records and tours with R. Ring, his project with The Breeders’ Kelley Deal).
Though that background and context might suggest that Passion Relapse’s greatness is the result of the three musicians hunkering down in the studio for the past seven years, writing and meticulously adding layers upon layers of tracks, the opposite is true. Montgomery recently told The Big Takeover (which premiered the full LP here) that the band wanted the album to sound like how Ampline sounds live, so the recording was done with as few overdubs as possible and ultimately only took a couple of days to track (“I guess we spent five years to prep for making the album in one weekend,” he said).
Giving the album a raw immediacy and intensity, that economical, workman-like approach to recording is also reflected in the writing. The songs on Passion Relapse never meander, which, matched with Ampline’s musical tightness, creative and propulsive rhythms and much-developed melodic muscles, makes it one of the best Indie Rock/Post Punk albums released so far in this young year. For anyone bemoaning the decline of “Guitar Rock” albums in the Indie music world, let Ampline ease your fears and assure you that the legacy carried over the years by bands like Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill and Hot Snakes isn’t in danger of dropping off anytime soon.
Ampline plays a free album release show in Passion Relapse’s honor this Saturday in the Lounge at Southgate House Revival (111 E. Sixth St., Newport, Ky., southgatehouse.com), with special guests Vacation, Bicentennial Bear and Hot For Alice. Find the latest on Ampline here and keeping checking CityBeat for an interview with the band members in the near future.