Review Summary: A very tasty exploration of Electronica, Rock, Pop and other genres that just might work on a pizza.
When I first heard about Minotaur Shock some 3-4 years ago, visions of an epic 9 piece band staffed by metal junkies and fantastic forest creatures filled my head. I thought, "Well gee! Wouldn't it be fine if the tooth faerie and Jeff Loomis
hammered out a few riffs while a lion with wings devoured Axel Rose, and Harry Potter made love to Stalin?"
I admit that I may be exaggerating -- slightly – but I refuse to admit that my preconceptions about a large band were incorrect. Although Minotaur Shock turned out to be mostly the work of one man, David Edwards, listening to Amateur Dramatics
definitely gives the impression that multiple musicians were involved in the recording process. This is due to the depth of sound featured throughout. Aside from featuring the beeps, synthesizers and programmed drums that fans of electronic music are accustomed to, David Edwards went to great lengths to sample a toy piano and brass ensemble, whilst also recording and/or sampling real drums, bass, electric guitars, violins, clarinets, flutes, alto-sax and chime bars to name a few. The result is an electronic album rich in variety and musical flavor. You Might even say that it is a pizza with a bit of everything on it. But I digress, more on pizza later...
The album's opening track, "Zookeeper", opens with some sampled notes from a pianette and violin. This organic sound is quickly married to a danceable beat, complete with breaks and matching bass groove. The song thus helps establish the unpredictable nature of the album, as it rapidly melts into the album's second track, "AmDram". While these songs and "Accelerated Footage" all have similar structure, they all manage to distinguish themselves from each other by using different instruments and styles. One track may seem like an organic dance song, while the next would be well suited to a disco compilation. Keeping each track fresh is thus both a strategy and strength of Amateur Dramatics
The album eventually sheds these dance-centric tracks, moving onto songs featuring a more sinister or experimental sound. "BATS" manages to communicate the dark predispositions of its winged namesake by incorporating a heavy bass line with a variety of ambient electronic noise. The follow up track, "Snapdragon" makes similar use of jarring, dissonant sounds to create an uneasy, foreboding atmosphere. These songs definitely represent some of the 'dramatic' tensions that the tracks are intended to express.
Although Minotaur Shock is good at trading one style/tone for another, David Edward's is at his best when mixing his old habits with new tricks. “My Burr” and “Beekeeper” both show Edward's return to the sweet melodies that characterized his previous effort, Maritime
. The difference is that this time he has added a litany of effects, layers and subtle nuances to the melodies, so that one can persistently discover new details with almost every listen. “This Plane is Going to Fall” demands repeated playback so that you can analyze and dissect the stacked and looped vocals that permeate the majority of the track. Doing this and continually finding new peculiarities can be quite rewarding, as it essentially allows you to 'bond' with the content.
And then there is “Buzzards”. If this album were an 'everything' pizza, this track is definitely the best slice. Registered as the album's lengthiest track at 6:32, “Buzzards” features tight-pacing, an engrossing ambient intro and an interesting interlude. It successfully fuses a plethora of electronic elements with sampled brass, a pounding quarter beat bass line and rolling snare rhythm. The end result is a catchy song well suited to driving, going to war or buttoning up your shirt. It also makes a good soundtrack for eating pizza. But I digress, more on pizza later...
Ultimately, Amateur Dramatics
is an album that combines many elements and succeeds on multiple levels. By merging a large variety of styles, Minotaur Shock creates an array of music that appeals to followers of many genres including, but certainly not limited to electronica. It is an album that can challenge the listener to explore musical concepts or just allow them to sit back, relax and leave the analysis to the connoisseur. Is it required listening? Well it depends on what you like, as Amateur Dramatics
is the type album in which one track can leave no lasting impression on you, while the next can have you unwittingly transfixed; the kind of album that favors complexity over simplicity. Thus the album is a bit like an 'everything' pizza: Although it is certain that their will be a couple bad slices, fortune will always favor the bold.
So if you like your pizza with a bit of everything, than give this album a bite. Otherwise, order a hamburger...