Amber Asylum

Natural Philosophy of Love

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If Lisa Germano, the Cocteau Twins, Julee Cruise, and Dead Can Dance ever collaborated on an album, the results would likely sound quite similar to the second album by San Francisco dream pop collective Amber Asylum. Leader Kris Force dominates the proceedings with her icy soprano vocals and haunting violin work, but these focal points are adrift in a hazy, slowly shifting soundscape of electronic keyboards, heavily processed guitars, minimal drums, and, of course, buckets and buckets of reverb. Force was clearly heavily influenced by This Mortal Coil's similarly ghostly It'll End in Tears, as made obvious by the mournful, elegiac cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Poppies" -- on which Force is a vocal dead ringer for Elizabeth Fraser -- which ends the album. (Ivo Watts-Russell is probably still kicking himself for not thinking of that one first.) Essential listening for anyone who wore nothing but black for at least one semester of high school, to be sure, but The Natural Philosophy of Love is so richly detailed and at times spine-tinglingly pretty that it's not just for recovering goths.

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