As music critics we often place an undue amount of pressure on bands that we deem as “innovative” or “experimental.” We expect these bands to grow and shift and change, of course, these bands are then subject to criticism for giving up their original sound. Having been widely releasing music for more than half a decade, Amnesia Scanner had managed to avoid this conundrum by constantly pushing their sound in bold new directions. But at this rate of evolution we were bound for a misstep sooner or later. Well, we regret to report that the misstep we’ve expected is finally here in the form of Tearless.
Those who had spent time following Amnesia Scanner’s career could clearly see the duo shifting towards a more palatable approach to experimental music. Their 2018 debut album Another Life showed them moving into a space full of warped vocals, danceable bass-heavy beats and thrilling bursts of noise. While Another Life did cut some of the edges off of previous efforts like AS and AS Truth, it resulted in a more approachable and cohesive work than they had done before.
Tearless then comes off as an attempt to recapture that multi-genre magic, and at times it does. All three singles “AS Tearless,” “AS Aca” and “AS Going” were exciting glimpses into a world of grimy, complex music that thrilled and threatened at the same time. Each of these tracks possessed a different strength, “AS Tearless” wielded glitched out vocals and roaring guitars to create an oppressive but engaging atmosphere, “AS Going” brought back the danceable magic of Another Life’s “AS Too Wrong” and “AS Aca” managed to encroach on the Arca space by creating a compelling emotional narrative through sound alone.
Unfortunately, Tearless cannot hold steady under the weight of the expectations that the singles handed us. The album opener “AS Enter” is fine, but will do nothing to make your jaw drop, especially if you’ve listened to the group before. Stranger still is “AS Flat,” this track was created in collaboration with industrial metalcore artists Code Orange. The group, who recently shattered expectations with their brilliant record Underneath, add little to this listless track and their guitar flares only serve to muddy the waters of the sound. Even “AS Too Late” wanders endlessly through the same loops, adding no compelling direction to the record despite its interesting set of sounds. “AS Labyrinth” and “AS U Will Be Fine” do come back at the end to save the album from complete mediocrity, but by then too much damage has been done to the project as a whole.
Ultimately, Tearless is the least successful project by Amnesia Scanner to date, a fact that is made deeply frustrating by the quality of it’s singles and the quality of the album that preceded it. While it is fair to expect changes in sound over time, Amnesia Scanner manages to change both too much and not enough on this record. The good news is that standout tracks like the singles, “AS Labyrinth” and “AS U Will Be Fine” show that Amnesia Scanner still has some good ideas left in the tank. It’s just too bad they didn’t all end up on this project.