French producer / multi-instrumentalist Thierry Arnal is probably better known for his shoegaze / drone-based band Fragment, under which alias he’s released a slew of albums and EPs since the outfit emerged in 2006. Over the last few years he’s also released a handful of EPs as Amantra, with this download-only album ‘As It Should Have Been’ offering up his debut longplayer under this newer alias. In truth, the eight tracks collected here don’t sit miles away stylistically from Fragment’s brooding shoegaze / post-metal explorations, though there’s a noticeably bigger focus on darkwave synth atmospherics. Given the comparisons that have frequently been made in the past between Arnal’s work and Jesu / later period Godflesh, it seems especially fitting that this album arrives on Justin Broadrick’s Avalanche Recordings label.
To further underline the connection, a cover of Godflesh’s slowburner ‘The Internal’ makes an appearance alongside a retake on Jesu’s ‘We All Faulter.’ As soon as the slow punching drum machine beats and wistful, delayed-out vocals of opener ‘Dust’ kick in, the debt to Broadrick’s aforementioned bands is clearly underlined here, but in this case it’s the layers of swelling synths that take things to a different place as the vocal harmonies get pitchbent and processed, the resulting blend calling to mind a more poisoned take on M83’s epic synth swell. ‘Ghost’ meanwhile manages to carry a trace of Joy Division-esque grandeur in its layers of icy droning synths and snapping programmed snares, the heavy goth-rock atmosphere generated by the distorted powerchords and chiming melodies melting away with the appearance of wistful female backing harmonies towards the end that suggest the influence of 4AD more than anything else.
Elsewhere, Arnal’s take on Godflesh’s ‘The Internal’ manages to be an inspired reinterpretation rather than a simple homage, paring away the roaring metal powerchords in favour of chiming, minor key melodies and icy electronic sheen whilst preserving all of the original track’s emotional heft, before ‘Yourself’ offers up a glacial slice of synth-pop that sounds like it could have stepped straight off New Order’s ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ album as jangling indie guitars stretch off into the distance against Arnal’s blurred out vocals and the reverb-treated crash of the metronomic drum machine rhythms. While the influences are often close to the surface, this album is well worth investigation.
You can get ‘As It Should Have Been’ as a name your price download from https://avalancherecordings.bandcamp.com/album/as-it-should-have-been