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The American Analog Set:: Set Free (Album Review)

In contrast to contemporary music world’s penchant for volatility and evolution, The American Analog Set, throughout their decade-spanning career, have changed very little. While they evaded bandwagons and poseur-dom, the Austin-based quintet had, to date, quietly churned out six full-lengths, numerous singles and EPs; given the addition of Set Free to their already impressive collection, it simply gets better.
Set Free gives 2001’s Know by Heart – critically acclaimed and widely regarded as Amanset’s masterpiece – a serious run for its money. Unlike the band’s previous effort, the rather patchy and under-whelming Promise of Love, Set Free reverts to a format of consistency; while Amanset’s subtleties reach certain depths, there is not a dud to be heard. Their qualities lie within, in their precision and abundant maturity: the simplicity in which the typical Amanset song takes root is what makes Set Free tick. To strip Set Free down is to reveal the simplicity in its unvarnished nakedness. The guitar riffs that lace standout tracks “Born on the Cusp” and “The Green Green Grass” would sound unmistakably trite were they not interwoven with a small assemblage of layers. On the contrary, Set Free is far from panoramic; Amanset’s lo-fi tendencies require that the instruments employed do not fight for space, and instead allow for the thread of the album to unravel and slowly expose its suitably flowing hooks. The American Analog Set’s reverence reaches a peak with “She’s Half,” during which a steady and unremarkable progression of chords provides a platform for Andrew Kenny’s raspy whispers. Motionlessness aside, it is moving, duly matched by the hypnotic “Sharp Briar,” which sees Sean Ripple’s vibraphone move to center stage – if a stage were ever set. Upon beholding Set Free, it is obvious that The American Analog Set are a band that have never been destined to move mountains; the band’s long-running consistency suggests their lack of interest in doing so. Set Free is bound with sincerity, exemplifying the workings of a band absolutely content to continue writing subtly accessible indie-pop songs that both relax and conjure warmth. Although fans cannot be certain of Amanset’s presence in a decade’s time, they can be confident that, if still creating together, they will remain as cerebral, wistful and charming as ever. (Reviewed by Mike Wright)