The American Analog Set: Set Free
Kim Kirkpatrick: I seldom end up owning everything by a group; normally I check everything out and then discard a few that are just OK. The American Analog Set is an exception, I own every CD they ever released. I own all six full length CDs, the EPs too, covering from 1996 to 2005, and they all sound the same! (“ All sounds the same”, don’t you just love hearing that from someone?). In the case of AmAnSet the “sameness” is repetition, analogous to many a masterful artist’s exploration, whatever the medium. Through the years their skills have refined, producing more blissful subtlety with each release.
Set Free (2005) may well be The American Analog Set’s last release. The band announced the members would be busy with solo projects and that they would no longer be touring with any consistency. Set Free is a superb ending for the group, going out with refinement and beauty. AmAnSet fit within the Post Rock genre, along the lines of Tortoise, Mogwai, and Low. All of these bands are in no hurry to get anywhere within a song and function as a whole, with equal importance to all the players.
I had a run of delightful years when AmAnSet, Bedhead (both from Texas), and Low (Minnesota) were all releasing tightly reined in, utterly consistent music. The mood these bands presented--the thick atmosphere--fit my personality perfectly. Like my response to dub reggae, once I entered The American Analog Set’s world of emotions and pace I felt no need to leave. “Slowcore” has been used to describe this music, and AmAnSet certainly maintains a deliberate slow pace, a low key, subdued sound throughout their years.
The American Analog Set’s chosen limitations seem to boost their creativity. Subtle variations within the soft rhythmic (acoustic and warm electric) guitars, whispered vocals, beautifully toned bass, occasional organ, xylophone, and melodica, well… it just makes me want to turn down the lights, sit down, and feel the wash and comfort of The American Analog Set. And the lyrics are to cry for, beautiful, comfortably down. Set Free, what a perfect title for a musical departure eh? The Velvet Undergound’s “I’m Set Free” strikes me as relevant in mood, speed, and general laid back revelations. Set Free is a fine starting point for The American Analog Set, and I would expect you to want more after hearing it.
Bob Burnett: I’m not at the expansive complete set archiving level Kim is with AmAnSet but agree with his comments about consistency, relevance and the listening joy they bring. In addition to Set Free I find myself frequently drawn to 2003’s Promise of Love. These musical waters runs deep; one minute I feel that VU pull, suddenly the soft, melodic xylophone takes me to parallel them with the contemplative Modern Jazz Quartet. Yeah, I know that’s somewhat a stretch but the chamber/ensemble feel within both groups reflect a strong and positive group approach to music—something both Kim and I react to in a positive way.