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Amulets Unfurls Thoroughly Moving Avant-Garde Ambient On New Record

Listening to Blooming — the new full-length album from the Portland-based avant-garde ambient project Amulets — feels (at least eventually) like sitting alone in an isolated cabin that’s surrounded by dewy, glistening woods and watching old home movies in which the memories themselves seem to be shifting as the tapes roll on. The dynamically crackling and consistently immersive musical fog proves both captivating and emotionally striking.

Overall, the music is expansive, with looping tones that are often dramatically extended, but it also feels somewhat jarringly personalized. The flowing guitars and other elements feel starkly poignant, as though reflecting real-world emotional outpourings — in all their complications — in real time. For the most part, the tones are also relatively warm, adding to the inward draw. Blooming feels welcoming in the way that a sun-drenched field might seem to beckon observers.

There’s a blend of strain and longing — sometimes, the feedback-immersed guitars prove quite formidable, and the tones can be occasionally tough, but the music sports a lush mix and consistently flows onward. The boundaries between the album’s various components feel surreal, with substantial free-form shifts, but it’s not disorienting. Instead, there’s a sense of stillness and an overlay of emotional focus — which is no doubt heightened by the usage of looping for the composition process.

The billowing, foggy sounds often move rather slowly, imparting a sense of somber self-contemplation for the journey. The dramatic breadth, though, occasionally takes on somewhat of a (very grounded) sci-fi feel because of the glimmering sonic expanse defined by uncertain edges across Blooming. Moving through the music, which repeatedly grows into subtly triumphant crescendo-like portions, feels like trekking to the top of an isolated hillside and sitting to take in the compelling surroundings before moving onward with the trek.

The album begins with its title track, which features pulses of relatively hard-hitting guitars driving a billowing haze. Here and elsewhere, the music sometimes feels somewhat coarse — but so is the natural world at times, and this layer of abrasion doesn’t erase the album’s overall bright push. It’s like the songs occasionally move from welcoming warmth into a charred, subtly smoldering creation, helping extend the sonic echo.

As the album moves forward, that cinematic feeling establishes itself quickly on track two, “The New Normal,” which features a blanket of warmly building ambiance, bright apparent strings, and more. The slow pace provides a settling emotional release. Meanwhile, some of the heavier guitars reappear on “Heaviest Wait” and the surprisingly harsh — but still atmosphere-focused — album closer “Whirl.”

Although looping figures prominently across the record, the mix remains very dynamic in an organic and emotionally realistic sense. It’s blustery at times, but it’s never particularly overwhelming. Instead, Blooming sticks to a free-flowing liveliness tempered by expansive atmosphere and stark meditative elements. Ultimately, there’s a lot going on here, on par with a field of flowers like the scene snapshotted in the cover art — and the album feels refreshing.

Blooming is available now via The Flenser.

5/5 Stars

Listen below!