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Udana Prana by Amarante

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Reviewed on 21st March 2013.


Udana Prana

By Amarante

Lately I've immersed myself in new music so much that coming up for air long enough to write about it was far down my list. My selfish side now sated, temporarily at least, it's time to share the fruits of my (ahem) hard work. It was at the end of a lengthy wander into the unknown that I found myself on Amarante's website, dipping my toe in a couple of tracks. Soon after I grabbed the album to get a fuller picture and confirm what I already knew: I'd just found something pretty bloody spectacular.

Amarante are Josh and Jysi Hewitt, a husband and wife duo from Fresno, California and they make luscious indie-folk with an electronic pulse. Their third album in twelve months, the irrepressibly uplifting life tonic "Udana Prana" is as impressive as their studio fecundity. Taking its name from a yogic position aimed at ridding the body of negative energy and filling your lungs with the good force of nature, "Udana Prana" explores human flaws we'd probably not want to see in ourselves and transforms them into hugely positive vibes to replenish the soul. To understand more about the songs I fired a few questions at Amarante via Twitter, which they graciously answered. How it came up I'm less sure but I can confirm that they are big Doctor Who fans. More helpful to understanding this brilliant album though would be that to add that they "wrote a good portion of the songs about certain characteristics that people may have that they feel to be negative." There's the palpable air of soul-cleansing on the album, for sure. The vocals, production and general flow of it all lead you effortlessly away from the trappings of modernity into something beautiful, natural and uncomplicated.

Where to start then with the high points of an album as heavily laced with emotive strains, clarity and balance. Many of the songs work on one level as blissful duets where the couple's vocals play over and against each other like the tired, playful, outstretched feet of lovers in the moments after a shared ecstasy. At the same time the vocals combine to produce a single instrument, a whole sound within itself, adding one more colourful fabric to the record's rich tapestry. In so many places the voices are perfect each on their own but it's when they meet that the magic happens.

I'll avoid track by track analysis because there isn't a bad moment on the whole album. Personal favourites though are "Glowing Light" (offering a nice pastiche of the Ray Conniff Singers and a chorus I was powerless to resist); "The Addict" (a slumbering blues feel built on brooding bass complete with super cool shakers, lazy wah-wah and simple claps); "The Antagonist" which to my ear musically hat-tips some classic British 90s goodies (Portishead, Morcheeba, Massive Attack) and sets them against a Californian sunrise; and "The Manic" places Amarante somewhere between those loved-up, fun folk Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and indie-kid icons, The Moldy Peaches. What can be bad about any of that I ask you? Exactly.

If I was forced to find a blind spot of the album then it's probably one of the percussion tracks on "The Beggar" which sounds a little dated. It reminded of Imani Coppola but then again I loved her music once so it didn't put me off entirely. The only other thing on the album that didn't grab me outright, but again it didn't detract from a great song, was the heavily-effected / compressed claps on "The Wanderer". It might have been the desired sound for Amarante but for me it just didn't come across as well produced and clean as absolutely everything else. So there you go: one drumbeat I didn't like (which is early on in the song anyway and not even the main rhythm of the song) and another percussive element that didn't quite do it for me.

Last week I heard presenters on 6 Music asking listeners to suggest their favourite "no filler" albums. Immediately I thought of Air's "Moon Safari" and Masters at Work's "Nuyorican Soul" and I can see "Udana Prana" fitting in nicely alongside them. As with both those albums there's an atmospheric continuity here and hearing it in full seems to unlock the true character, depth and purpose of the music. I guess that's what elevates a "no filler" album above ordinary others: not only does it have great individual songs but it begs to be played start to finish to reward you as much as its production intended. Which brings us to the closing track, "The Travellers", which in Josh and Jysi's own words "Is really the soul of it all... It is simply the feeling of leaving behind the noise and stress of the city life". The subtle birdsong and points where Josh's vocals are almost air-lifted through time from a seminal Fairport Convention track add a folksy authenticity hinted at elsewhere but it's here where they're fully revealed. The climax is about as positive as music can be without getting an out and out hug from your headphones. The perfect way to round things off. Amarante's route to escape the quotidian? Works for me.

To hear why Amarante's latest offering needs adding to your collection visit their website here http://amarantemusic.com/ where you'll find downloads of "Udana Prana" and their earlier LP and EP releases available at seriously good prices ($7 per album in fact, less than a fiver as I write). You won't be disappointed and I don't know - it'll probably make you a better person on the inside. Om.



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On 23rd March 2013 at 10:38 Jimmy Horrigan wrote...

Quick update.... Amarante have now made their earlier releases available as "name your price" downloads via their website.


On 16th April 2013 at 18:11 Jimmy Horrigan wrote...

From the band today via FB....Here are some codes for FREE DOWNLOAD of "Udana Prana"jlrr-k3e47smw-y4falhrq-7qe7qelf-5zr5REDEEM here: http://amarantemusic.com/yum



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