Review: ampersand – I wish I were who I was when I wished I was who I am

ampersand is a largely solo project from Johannesburg, performed by Warren Cohen.  His third release, ‘I wish I were who I was when I wished I was who I am’, perfectly encapsulates the current Zeitgeist for haunted lo-fi pop.

ampersand EP Cover

There is a distinct chill in the air from the moment the spindly guitars usher in opening track ‘First Fifteen’. This guitar drone lasts for over a minute before Warren Cohen’s ghostly tones first enter the fray. Despite, one imagines, having limited resources at his disposal, Cohen and his producer/mixer Alex Hing create something a lot more lavish-sounding. Witness the backing vocal and huge drums for ‘Now Here, Nowhere’ and you’re clearly listening to a bedroom-studio team with aspirations to be Phil Spector. In total contrast, ‘Stole It From The Doctor’ strips everything back to just Cohen and his acoustic guitar, with every pluck resonating round the room, before the track enters a metamorphosis into a frazzled pop coda. This track segues into the excellent ‘Safe Hands’ where the intensity is ratcheted up a few notches further and by the end of EP closer ‘The Hoarder’, it’s hard not take to feel slightly relieved when this crazed, albeit riveting, music is over.

Make no mistake, ampersand holds nothing back to make this experience more agreeable to lovers of gentle music and there is a distinct impression that one is experiencing the soundtrack to a descent into madness. Yet the EP is never less than  compelling and you can file this next to Deerhunter, That Ghost and all those other acts who like the vintage pop sound twisted and distorted beyond recognition.

Web Sites:
ampersand Bandcamp Page

Further Listening:
Deerhunter, That Ghost


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