Amber Route — Snail Headed Victrolas
(Projekt Relic R0, 1980/1995, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1997-02-01
Amber Route was an electronic / rock duo from southern California featuring Walter Holland on guitars and synthesizers, and Richard Watson on woodwinds, piano, and synthesizers; both share vocal duties. They produced two albums: Snail Headed Victrolas was their first, from 1980, and a second, Ghost Tracks, three years later, with an accompanying maxi-single. I've sometimes heard Amber Route dismissed as a grade-B Tangerine Dream clone with vocals, but that misses the point and certainly overlooks some of the more interesting aspects of their sound. Yes, the TD and Pink Floyd influences are quite strong, as is the influence of Krautrock in general. But where TD stuck mostly to ethereal atmospheric explorations (at least in their early days...), Amber Route has a more raw and onerous intensity to their sound, abrasive at times. The vocals are trademark, often extremely dark and treated, high and low register unison but slightly out of sync. So go the first three tracks, corresponding to the first side of the original LP. The last track — the seventeen minute "Asteroid Jaroid" — is a different matter, a sequenced electronic piece with layered echo guitar and flute/clarinet improvisation, recalling some of Manuel Göttsching's work circa Inventions, though Amber Route's approach is more haunting and foreboding. In all, it's good to finally have this one available on CD.
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more