Christoffer Gunrup, The Amazing’s lead singer, songwriter and one of the band’s three lead guitarists, is known for his reluctance to talk about his process. He prefers to let the music speak for itself. He refuses to take part in the promotion of the band, never reveals the lyrics, which are often an impenetrable jumble in the mix, and expresses little satisfaction with any of the music he’ s recorded. “I think Ambulance might take more listening than the last album, but I never analyze what we’ve done. If I can listen to it without killing myself, we’ll keep it.”
On Ambulance, the Swedish band continues their journey to a place where music is free of restrictions, offering up another collection of densely concentrated melodies and fractured rhythms. The songs unfold slowly, without a traditional verse/chorus structure, spinning gauzy webs of shimmering mystery with their own inimitable dynamic of sinuous, swirling guitars; rich, ambient bass lines; crisp percussion and restrained, church-like, keyboard textures. The songs brim over with tension and more implied release than actual relief. “An ambulance picks up the wounded,” Gunrup says. “It does not mean ‘ ambulance’ in the common sense. Everybody needs a bit of ‘ambulance’ now and then.”
The band’s last outing, Picture You, was brighter, exploding outward to explore the limits of experience. Ambulance is more intimate, imploding inward to reconnoiter the uncharted distances that exist between us, even in life’s most intimate moments. “I wanted this record to be more bare, more grey,” Gunrup says. “It does not sound happy.”
Most of the music was recorded live, in one room, at Fredrik Swahn’s small Buller & Bäng studio. “We learn the song, then do it in the first or second take,” Gunrup says. The fun is, a song can take a turn I never anticipated when we do it together.”
The songs on Ambulance reflect Gunrup’s often-cynical worldview, with expansive, beautiful music and playing that’ s as much free jazz as rock. While his creative impulses may arise from the conflicted corners of his psyche, the result is uplifting, offering insights that allow us to better understand ourselves as illuminated human beings.
Benson’s bass and Fadera’s tom tom fills caper around the melody of “Ambulance,” bringing a hint of ‘80s new wave energy to the track. Chiming guitars, acoustic piano and Gunrup’s forlorn crooning give the song a haunted feel. “I wanted to incorporate stuff I grew up with, like The Cure, so I asked Moussa to play that drum pattern. Reine played the distorted solo.”Dreamy notes from Swahn’s organ, brittle guitars and Benson’ s soothing bass send “Floating” adrift in the ether, with Gunrup turning in an angst ridden vocal. “We call it our ‘Burger King’ commercial,” Gunrop quips. “I had something different in mind, but Fredrik and Moussa kept adding things – it́s easy to be annoyed with it.”
“Tracks” features the three guitarists playing overlapping leads behind Gunrup’s brief, repetitive melody. Fadera’s shifting rhythms anchor the waves of overtones that wash over Gunrup’s moody vocal. Chiming guitars, mellow bass notes and subliminal percussion pull “Divide” into a whirlpool of anguish. Relentless, interlocking melodies sprinkle the song with despondent raindrops. “Through City Lights” has a funereal backbeat, hymn-like lyrics and yearning guitars filling the air with the breath of desolation. “I wanted the whole album sound like this,” Gunrop states,“but the band would have been dissatisfied if every song was this bleak. I really like it.”
Gunrup has been playing music all his life, a serious musician with a self-effacing demeanor. “When my first group fell apart, I started playing alone and realized that I needed to howl on the songs myself.” Gunrup asked guitarist Reine Fiske and former Dungen drummer Fredrik Björling, to join him onstage. After a few personal shifts, the line up settled down with Fiske on guitar; Fredrik Swahn on guitar and keys; bass player Alexis Benson and drummer Moussa Fadera. “I started playing with them because of their musical skills,” Gunrop says. “We combine the musical with the social, which isńt always smart but, if we weren’t friends, the playing would be horrible.”Ambulance is the band’s fourth album; Gunrup is already at work on their next recording.