Chris Amer – Looking Northwards as Daylight Extends
Self Released – 2018
Edinburgh-native Chris Amer has an enviable musical pedigree. A student of Kevin McKenzie while still a teenager, he took up a place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, in 2012, and has held the guitar chair with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, as well as appearing on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘The Jazz House’ programme several times.
His latest self-released EP, ‘Looking Northwards as Daylight Extends’ follows on from 2016’s ‘Car Journey To North Berwick EP’ self-release.
Chris slots his music into the genres of Scottish, Folk, Jazz, Acoustic and while the first two elements are obviously present, there is a lighter, jazzier sensibility overall that blurs the lines between all four genres in what is an immersive and slowly-unfolding programme of music.
The composition approach is modernist and cellular. A repeating figure will start, to be overlain by another, and then another in logical successions to form thick textures in which the evolving shape of the music from its first pattern can distinctly be heard even as the patterns and melodic lines change.
At its best, such as the eight-minute opener Driving Past Orange Tiled Houses and Looking Northwards as Daylight Extends, it results in music that invites you to journey. The word I kept doodling on my pad as I listened was ‘progressive.’ It might have been my ears, but I heard something of the willingness to meander and thoroughly explore all of the corners of an idea before moving on that typified some of the acoustic-based progressive music of the seventies; and in the quicksilver lightness of sudden punctuating harmonics and spidery jazz-inflected lines something of Frank Dunnery’s vaulting approach to bar-lines in the heyday of Cumbrian neo-progressives It Bites.
I am always exceptionally wary when a critic offers an artistic suggestion. The final call is, always, with the artist. So, with the caveat that it might, again, be just these ears what I found myself itching to hear is how these compositions would sound played if the parts were shared among a compass of instruments and musicians. It isn’t simply because sometimes what makes music great is someone else’s fingerprints on the picture, but also a question of frequencies and dynamics. The layering approach to composition was obviously part of the project’s brief and it works well. But with everything being played on guitar by the same hands these layers get dense and thick very quickly, sometimes fighting for the same sonic space for all that they’re beautifully recorded. This might well be the desired effect. After all, it is an EP of multi-tracked guitar music. But these songs would lend themselves to an ensemble approach and I found myself wondering how the dynamics would change if the parts were parcelled out between different instrumentation.
It’s a minor quibble, but that this music prompted this train of thought indicates that there is much to admire here. If you have a long drive through the wilds ahead of you; or a long journey where you can lose yourself, or even just want to unwind at night after a hard day, this EP would be a worthy travelling companion.
Order it here: http://www.chrisamer.com/shop/