Where Fusion Falls Flat
Amps for Christ is an experimental side project by Henry Barnes of the outfits Man is the Bastard and Bastard Noise, power violence bands both based out of southern California. Despite Barnes’s previous experience in hardcore punk subgenres, his newest project is reflective of his appreciation for traditional folk music, combined with an aptitude and preference for eclectic electronic instrumentation. The end process of these influences is a sound similar to a combination of artists like Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Antlers. These inspirations come through loud and clear on the project’s newest album, Canyons Cars and Crows.
Barnes’s inspiration is certainly eclectic and widespread; influences of Indian, Native American and traditional folk can be heard on Canyons. Additionally, there’s no denying the quality of his musicianship on the release, in both electronic and traditional instrumentation. Barnes’s musical precision can be heard on everything from the guitar to the sitar and his nuance in fine-tuning his synths is duly noted throughout the album.
However, there’s also no denying that the scope of his influence may be too wide to produce listenable results. At times, the drone of the electronics, combined with the whirr of his mainly traditional instrument arsenal, is too abrasive to enjoy. Most of the album seems to drag on due to these characteristics, and lacks the cohesion that good musical fusion should have. Additionally, Barnes leaves much to be desired lyrically, for his voice fails to stand out sonically among the drone of the album’s instruments. At the same time, his lyrics seem to lack emotion and come across as quite vanilla for the majority of the songs.
While it can’t be denied that the artist was well-intentioned and well-educated in both electronic and folk music, Canyons Cars and Crows falls flat of anything notable.