19 Aug 2021 - Wouter
Instrumental/post-rock | 1724 Records | Release date: 25 Jun 2021
Melancholy and hope, those are the feelings that hit me from the moment I put this album on. Very fitting for the times if you ask me. Xi’an based postrock band Amber released Boundary of Time in June of 2021. It is there 3rd release in, after Tide of Soul (2018) and Drunk Star (2011), and it is a beauty. Boundary of Time is very much driven by rhythm and melody, cleanly captured thanks to great production.
The first song on Boundary of Time, “Seeds”, starts with subdued guitars that are quickly supported by a laid back drum pattern. A theme that comes back multiple times during the song. It is a simple but mesmerizing opening. It is incredibly effective and immediately pushes the melodic guitar parts to the front when they are introduced. And although there is not a lot of dynamic progression happening in the song, it still grabs your attention and doesn’t let go, keeps reeling you back in. The sound is so clean, focused, determined.
“Cambrian” introduces a more ambient sound, with an almost submarine like feel to it. Then for the first time on the record, the bass guitar is front and center with a nice melodic groove that is quicky added to with a 16th driven drum part. Clean guitars fill out the sound. Then the song picks up in urgency and picks up the pace, this will certainly make you bounce your head during a live show. This is the first time band cranks up the sound, but every musical part is still very distinct. At the 4 minute mark after a guitar delaying the bass picks up an almost salsa sounding bass line, with a plucking guitar and danceable drum beat before returning to the pattern we know from earlier in song. Certainly not your standard postrock. Sometimes Amber reminds me of Waking Aida with the prominent bass, shifting drum patterns and danceable feel.
“Lake” follows with the same danceable feel, with some more intricate guitar work. An ongoing quick guitar pattern moves from left to right and back again through the mix, supported by a super tight drum, bass and guitar foundation before falling back. Suddenly thunder clouds enter the mix and it feels like you are standing in the rain, sound raining all over you. Amber have a way of doing unexpected things, which keeps you on your toes while listening. Certainly an album you can keep listening to and discovering new parts you didn’t hear before.
Sometimes, delays on guitars can be too much in my opinion. But when it is used effectively it can creates such a comforting blanket of sound you just want to keep close. This is the case for the opening of “Birds out of Line”. The first two and a half minutes are beautiful sounding delayed guitars working together with drums and bass supporting but giving room to the melody. Then, the same melody gets louder and the bass takes a more prominent role and creates more intensity. Amber expand on the melodies and get their loudest of the whole album before falling back to a single guitar and spoken word sample, which sound like Chinese. The song picks up and the band play in such a nice groove before ending on single guitar chords filled out with a sample.
“Memory” is the last song on Boundary of Time. A sample of what sound like trains, a single guitar and a rhythmic sample set the mood. Then a lush second guitar melody comes in, loaded with melancholy and expectation, just beautiful. Synth samples lay down a nice carpet for the melody to fully come to fruition. No drums, just guitars and samples, but arranged just right. A stunning song to close out the album.
Amber have given us a great album. With a duration of just over 33 minutes, it keeps you wanting more. Compared to Tide of Soul, Boundary of Time is a leap and a testament of how the band has grown. I recommend really taking the time to really listen to Boundary of Time, and be taken on a surprising journey.