|Amber Arcades||Fading Lines|
Amber Arcades — Fading Lines (June 3, 2016) ♠*♠ Imagine writing a clutch of songs that you thought were so good it was worth taking a sabbatical from your job to travel to another continent to record them. Well, that’s exactly what Annelotte de Graaf, aka Amber Arcades, has done with Fading Lines.
♠*♠ Fading Lines is proof that it’s worth pursuing your dreams, if you have the courage to do so. It’s also one of the most infectious collections of pop songs written on an electric guitar this year. (Ed Nash)Location: Utrecht, Netherlands
Album release: June 3, 2016
Record Label: Heavenly/PIAS America
01 Come with Me 4:02
02 Constant’s Dream 3:57
03 Fading Lines 4:07
04 I Will Follow 3:19
05 Perpetuum Mobile 4:15
06 Right Now 3:57
07 Apophenia 3:16
08 This Time 3:19
09 Turning Light 6:55
10 White Fuzz 2:23
••» Josh Bonati Mastering
••» Shane Butler Guitar, Vocals (Background)
••» Annelotte de Graaf Vocals, Composer
••» Meg Duffy Guitar
••» Ben Greenberg Engineer, Mixing, Producer
••» Nick Helderman Artwork, Photography
••» Keven Lareau Bass, Composer, Drums
••» Jackson Pollis Drums, Synthesizer
★ Besides doing music, de Graaf studied law and is a legal aide at the Home Office in The Netherlands, working with immigrants from Syria.
★ ‘I feel it doesn’t do justice to the music if you only focus.’ © Annelotte de Graaf, Amber Arcades. Photo credit: Nick Helderman
Dom Gourlay June 8th, 2016 / Score: 10
★ The back story behind Amber Arcades is almost as fascinating the music. It’s essentially the solo project of multi instrumentalist and singer songwriter Annelotte De Graaf, who by day works as a legal aide for Syrian refugees in her native Utrecht. Prior to that, she sat on United Nations tribunals dedicated to war crimes. Clearly well versed on humanitarian issues, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that her debut, Fading Lines, is one of the most quietly unassuming yet inherently beautiful records to grace our speakers in years. But then even the story of Amber Arcades eventually signing to revered UK independent Heavenly is shrouded in more luck than judgment. An occasional flatmate of De Graaf’s secured a job with the label and handing them a demo on the off chance someone might listen to it. Which might seem preposterous on the surface yet would have been an even bigger travesty had these songs not been heard in the first place. Nevertheless, eventually signing in January of this year, we’re here now with arguably the finest debut release of 2016.
★ The Amber Arcades story goes back a little further. Just under four years to be precise, which is when De Graaf started the project. Having written a batch of songs, she drafted in a batch of musicians mainly as a vehicle for playing them live. However, with day jobs taking precedence and an apparent lack of interest outside of her homeland, it never became a band as such. Hence the reason Amber Arcades touring outfit is very different from the one that recorded the songs here. In person at least. Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and keen to record an album irrespective of whether anyone would release it, De Graaf paid for a flight to New York out of what little savings she had and hooked up with Ben Greenberg, who’d previously worked on Destruction Unit’s Deep Trip and Clash The Truth by Beach Fossils. Although essentially from a punk background, his work on the aforementioned Beach Fossils record was what alerted De Graaf, and four weeks later, Fading Lines was finished.
★ Aided and abetted by Shane Butler and Keven Lareau of Quilt, along with Real Estate drummer Jackson Pollis, acclaimed singer/songwriter Kevin Morby and Hand Habits guitarist Meg Duffy, the New York sessions were an unmitigated success, not only producing the ten songs that ended up on Fading Lines but also the Patiently EP that preceded it last year. Perhaps it was inevitable that Amber Arcades would be picked up by someone, but even so, how she eventually got there is quite remarkable, especially in the current climate.
★ So here we are with an album that contains no filler whatsoever., that doesn’t repeat itself even if some of the reference points are quite identifiable. And more importantly never loses the impact or initial excitement encountered by that first listen to every subsequent one after. If anything, Fading Lines has an insatiable quality about it. That certain something that makes the listener want to go back to the start the minute it’s finished and play it all over again.
★ From the moment ‘Come With Me’ opens the album, all playfully chiming, shimmering guitars which fit perfectly with De Graaf’s deftly tuned vocal. Indeed for the most part, her voice becomes an extra level of instrumentation in itself in a way not too dissimilar from Laetitia Sadier’s with Stereolab or Molly Rankin of Alvvays. This is dream pop in its most literal sense. Each lyric accentuated in such a way that it becomes part of the subconscious.
★ ‘Constant’s Dream’, one of two songs here that also appeared on last year’s Patiently EP changes the tone and pace somewhat. Taking the form of a mellow, semi~acoustic lament that explores the concept of a last wish before death, De Graaf insisting “But it was just a dream” at the outset of the chorus. Simple yet effective in both execution and delivery, it would be a clear standout on almost every other record released this year but here, in this company, finds itself on a parallel with the rest.
★ The title track itself is similar in structure to ‘Road’ off the first House Of Love LP, albeit in a slightly different (and more upbeat) key. Once again dreamily executed, it takes on a whole new discourse by the outro which could then segue into another song by itself. ‘I Will Follow’ and ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ switch the tempo once more, the former taking on a maudlin persona against the latter’s winsome bossa nova which bears passing resemblance to Sam Cooke’s ‘Stand By Me’, albeit with glistening intentions.
★ And so it continues from beginning to end. Recent single ‘Right Now’ sees De Graaf return to pop mode, its middle eight falling somewhere between Adorable’s ‘Sunshine Smile’ and ‘Let’s Kill Music’ by The Cooper Temple Clause. ‘Apophenia’, the other track to appear on Patiently takes De Graaf into previously unchartered territories, its haunting melody perfectly adorned by Meg Duffy’s distinctive countrified guitar twang. “I know my own memory” declares De Graaf on ‘This Time’, which could be a Nancy Sinatra outtake from the Sixties in a parallel universe. Heartfelt closer ‘White Fuzz’ takes the form of a sentimental ballad. “If only we could stay the same” implores De Graaf ruefully over a minimal production that brings Fading Lines to its eventual end.
★ Prior to that, ‘Turning Light’ delivers seven minutes of motorik~driven bliss. A live favourite and regular finale to Amber Arcades set, there’s elements of Stereolab, Hawkwind and Yo La Tango in its make up and with lyrics like “We saw the ending before it had arrived” such comparisons ring true. Dancefloor friendly in a seismic way, it represents Amber Arcades at their most definitive and sits perfectly poised as Fading Lines’ penultimate offering.
★ For a label that regularly come up trumps, Heavenly must be proud of their latest signings because Amber Arcades have released the finest debut on their roster since Doves’ Lost Souls. And that in itself is no mean feat. A remarkable record that simply demands your attention. ★ http://drownedinsound.com/ © Photo credit: Wendy Lynch Redfern, interview for Under The Radar
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra; Score: ****
♠ Amber Arcades’ debut album, Fading Lines, has a nice story behind it, a musical romantic comedy of sorts. Annelotte de Graaf, the person behind the name, spent her teenage years in Holland saving up money to make an album someday. While she worked in Holland’s immigration center, she also self~released a few EPs, and when she felt ready to make the big leap she got in touch with producer Ben Greenberg (of the very dissimilar bands Destruction Unit and the Men) to see if he was interested in working with her. He said yes and she spent her savings flying to New York to make an album. To back her they brought in Quilt’s Shane Butler and Keven Lareau, guitar and bass respectively, and Real Estate’s drummer Jackson Pollis. What could have been a vanity project on par with a crummy self~published novel instead turned out to be something quite good. Good enough that Heavenly Records even decided to sign Amber Arcades and release the album. De Graaf spent her money wisely in hiring Greenberg to produce. His straightforward approach suits her music well, giving her dreamy songs a solid base that keeps them from drifting away. The band provides crack musical backing too, with chiming guitars, chunky basslines, and propulsive drums that drive the faster songs and help the slower ones hit the right Stereolab~jamming-with~Broadcast note. The real star, despite all the surrounding drama, is de Graaf and the songs she wrote. Roughly divided 50/50 between dream pop lullabies and motor~driven modern guitar pop, the songs fit together like reverb~coated puzzle pieces. Her sweetly unschooled vocals float through the simply hypnotic backing tracks, never sounding lost in the mix but never overpowering either. The best songs are those with a little bit of kick, like the swirling psych pop title track, or those that forgo the guitar~heavy approach for something a little more space age pop~sounding, like “Perpetuum Mobile.” Best of the record’s many highlights is the motorik synth pop song “Turning Light,” which stretches out over seven minutes of glimmering synths and has one of her sweetest vocal melodies. She proves adept at so many styles within her chosen niche on Fading Lines that her next album could go in any of four or five directions and sound very good. Or it could sound exactly the same and be well worth everyone’s time. Hopefully de Graaf won’t have to finance that second record, but even if for some weird reason Heavenly dropped out of the picture, it’s certain that many other labels would be only too happy to have someone this talented on their roster. Allmusic.com
By Ed Nash / 18 AUGUST 2016, 10:40 BST / Score: 8
Interview, By Aug Stone, Jul 06, 2016
••» Meijer Music Management
••» +31 (0)6 105 300 79
★ December 2 The Bataclan w/ Nada Surf, Paris, FR
★ December 3 Cap Caval w/ Nada Surf, Penmarch, FR
★ December 4 La Nef w/ Nada Surf, Angouleme, FR
★ December 10 Freeze Festival, Leeuwarden, NL
★ January 18 Oslo, London, UK
★ January 22 The Trades Club w/ Temples, Hebden Bridge, UK
★ February 9 One Of A Million Festival, Baden, CH © Annelotte de Graaf, Amber Arcades. Photo credit: Nick Helderman
|Amber Arcades||Fading Lines|