Back in 2016 Amphibian Man came out of nowhere with eight fantastic, high-energy releases in the span of about a year and a half. Things have changed a lot since then. The one-man project turned into a band, played shows, released a few more albums that were more of an instrumental skate/post/punk sound. And of course being from Ukraine there's there's the aspect of having your homeland invaded from Russia, a topic that I don't think I can begin to wrap my head around. Last year's LP was titled Flaming Home, so I imagine that turmoil was a factor in the songwriting -- as much as anything can be in instrumental guitar music.
So if you've followed along with this progression and you heard "Path" something might stick out to you: reverb! I enjoyed the more punk sounding records, particularly the microtonality of Flaming Home, but it sure does feel great to hear that sound again. But even if that opener feels like a throwback to 2016, the album itself isn't. I don't feel the same levity as those records, the same imaginative play and genre indulgence. I hear a lot of the same grit and adversity from Flaming Home, especially when it slams you righ back down on the second track with the gravity-encumbered tempo of "Assassin". There's a few of these slower songs, and sometimes even mid-tempo songs carry that same weight, like on "Eclipse". And "Transient" has a particular uncertainly to it, with licks that seem to oscillate between optimism and pessimism.
Admittedly, I was always attracted to this genre for the simplicity. The raw open-ended interpretation and freedom from forced drama I'd felt from other music. And I bet Amphibian Man can relate to that -- he made an album out of songs from a Nintendo game, he's certainly no stranger to escapism. But maybe it's our turn to relate, and it's extremely impressive and powerful that Amphibian Man can convey some aspect of what it feels like to be in his world without using vocals. A great write-up I saw (I used google translate) had this to say.
" Path " is released less than a year after "Flaming Home" and is conceptually an album in search of a way out of "a house on fire". This is clearly hinted at by its name and cover with a stylized inscription on the background of either a mole tunnel or an endless labyrinth. It is impossible to live a "normal" life under today's conditions, but any rooting in normality gives us strength.
Path is a good album without this. Amphibian Man's aggressive style of surf music is back, and that's really all you need to enjoy it. But I enjoy it more as somebody that's followed along and rooted for them. I barely know anything, and I doubt this story is over, but there's an extra layer to this album when you have some idea of where they've been and where they're at that you simply can't write.
Path is available on bandcamp as well as CD here and cassette if you contact them directly.