(am) - soundtrack

Chris Tapley 01/04/2010

Rating: 4/5

The debut album from mysterious Italian duo (am) is a labyrinthine journey through the various worlds of electronic music which somehow manages to retain a sense of accessibility throughout. It dwells primarily though in the ambient and electro-acoustic fields, where music tends to lie in open spaces where their spacious uncluttered canvas often makes them feel otherworldly. Soundtrack is almost the opposite, it's dizzying collage of sounds and styles makes it feel like a delirious trip, much in the way that the music of The Avalanches or Röyksopp at their best can.

It's an album bristling with ideas and which leaves me with almost too many references to touch upon. The most important ones though arguably being the presence of the kind of warm hazy noise which permeates Boards of Canada material, the dense urban groove that you would associate with Massive Attack, or the predilection towards escalating glacial soundscapes which so vividly recall Sigur Rós. In fact the cadence of the vocals on #22soundtrack are also particularly reminiscent of Jónsi, that track itself beginning as a clunky music box style piano musing which blossoms in to a wonderfully ethereal climax.

The ominous lullaby Lykke Lig features the kind of blissed out lounge beats one would expect from the likes of 9 Lazy 9 or a host of the other Ninjatune luminaries. The latter section of mySuper8 is a haunting piano ballad which could soundtrack the most eerie of Lynch film sequences where it not for the layers of optimistic vocals entwined atop. The band have a wealth of ideas, that much is clear and so inevitably it doesn't always come off perfectly; the industrial electro of N novella? for example sits very uncomfortably amongst the rest of the album. It's undoubtedly an accomplished and ambitious effort though, and the interspersal of vocal samples are a particularly effective touch; the sample of a toddler singing Flo Rida's Get Low is so charming that it immediately forgives the momentary lapse of judgement. It's the only real lapse though and is more than compensated for by the stunning closing track which is an epic piano lament akin to Glissando and the perfect way to leave things, it's breathtaking crescendo and subtle reprise of the opening seeming an apt conclusion to a wonderfully vast album.

The best way to view Soundtrack is as a puzzle of sorts, and in fact the cd arrived with a collection of scraps cut from magazines, some highly detailed surreal sketches and various other baffling artefacts such as a tiny playing card and a film cell. It's pieces do fit together and despite feeling slightly forced in places they combine to create a gloriously beguiling scene which it's impossible to resist exploring in more depth. This is an album which exhibits an adventurous nature which is for once matched with capability, and deserves a great deal more exposure than it has received so far.

You can download Soundtrack free of charge at