Minotaur Shock: Amateur Dramatics
Audio Dregs

Amateur Dramatics finds Bristol-based David Edwards remaining true to the open-minded sensibility he established on his previous Melodic and 4AD recordings, 2004's Rinse and 2005's Maritime. The new one's eleven pieces (thirteen including the bonus CD tracks) are enhanced by the presence of violinist James Underwood and woodwinds player Emily Wakefield (clarinet, flute, saxophone) whose contributions strengthen the already-orchestral feel of the Minotaur Shock sound. In fact, there are moments when the arrangements blossom so colourfully they call to mind Michael Torke's chamber music, and as it turns out Amateur Dramatics has a whole lot more in common with a classical-chamber composer like Torke than it does an “electronic” artist like Four Tet. The ever-deft Edwards also shows he can move with ease and dispatch between multiple styles (dance, rock, prog, electro) and sounds (acoustic and electronic).

The tricky tempo changes in the opener “Zookeeper” suggest some vague kinship with prog (Edwards cops to a Gentle Giant influence in the promo sheet), as does the inclusion of violin alongside piano, bass, and drums. Here and elsewhere, Edwards keeps a tight rein on the material, however, and never lets the material stray beyond than the six-minute mark or lose its personalized, whimsical touch; any one of these pieces could invite the descriptor “pocket symphony”—not in the Brian Wilson sense but more in the sense that Edwards' instrumentals are often as intricately constructed as timepieces: the episodic “Beekeeper,” for example, includes everything from laid-back electro-funk to orchestral thunder, while “AmDram” likewise combines conventional “dance” elements (robust synthesizer, handclaps, a surging disco pulse) and orchestral sounds (strings, woodwinds). Elsewhere, a Detroit techno influence is evident in the hammering techno beats and synthesizers that dominate “Jason Forrest” (though even here Edwards mixes things up by adding electric guitar and blaring horns), “BATS” mixes downtempo electro and hip-hop (sounding like some mighty pissed-off bats on the march), and “Buzzards” grounds itself in a propulsive techno-rock attack. Interestingly enough, the pick of the litter is the sole vocal cut, a splendidly rapturous jewel called “This Plane Is Going To Fall” whose jubilant dance groove Edwards augments with the enchanting whisper of Anna-Lynne Williams (a similar vibe re-emerges in “My Burr,” a ravishing wonderland of synthesizer sparkle, saxophone, and strings). Next time ‘round, Edwards might want to consider increasing Williams' role, given that all it would do is make the Minotaur Sound richer than it already is.

January 2009