Blasting from beat-up antique speakers hooked up to a wobbly turntable in a smoky bar – the ideal listening situation for a band like The Amalgamation. Timmins-conceived and Ottawa-based, the band currently consists of two men who know the meaning of rock, Jeff Bertrand and Brad Martel. Their sound is sometimes described in line with a Dinosaur Jr. or a Black Keys vibe: loud guitar licks with a funky backbeat. After a Bluesfest performance last summer, the band settled down to record their second full length album.
Due out in the next couple of months, Permutations promises to bring out the band’s heavier side. The first song from the album appeared on The Amalgamation’s Bandcamp page last month. Titled “Smoke and Mirrors,” the song is a showcase for the band’s musicianship, as well as for their darker new sound. “Looking back, our last album was a little on the mellow side,” says Martel. Since then, the band’s rock has been moving in a heavier direction.
And in keeping with this hard rock aesthetic, the band plans to release Permutations as a vinyl, as well as digitally. For Bertrand, it is the physicality and durability of the format that draws him to it. “I love having a big piece of art,” he says. He adds that he just feels more comfortable with having music in that format: “I was never able to take care of a CD.” In addition to the intrinsic appeal of the format, the vinyl release is an effort to give fans what they want. “It’s just taken a lot more seriously,” says Martel. “It’s not just that we want to put out a vinyl, it’s that we have to.”
Since the band is currently a duo, recording Permutations posed some challenges. “After Bluesfest, members had to leave for various reasons, so we decided to write and record a new album instead of playing live.” The pair rose to the task, dividing the instrumentation necessary for a rock album between the two of them. They say that, while being a duo worked great for the studio, playing live is going to be another matter. “To bring the music to life live you need more people,” says Martel. “You can’t clone yourself.” And so the band is currently trying out different lineups in anticipation of a year full of live music.
The band describes their sound as psychedelic, a word that fits well with the blending vocals, the full guitar tone, and the jammy nature of the sound. Their style of music issues from their own musical taste. “For me, if it’s not psychedelic, I don’t really like it,” Martel laughs. Their sound is marked by expressive guitar playing, complete with the obligatory solo section. “We’re pretty big on musicianship,” says Martel. “We have solos in every song. Not to a self-indulgent degree, but we like to keep the guitar solo alive.”
It’s been six years since the then four piece moved from Timmins to Ottawa to pursue their musical careers. “We did the band-house thing,” remembers Martel, “just like the hippies used to do.” The band quickly started playing clubs, setting up regular appearances and building their stature as a live band from the ground up in a new city.
Five years later, all the work culminated in an appearance at last year’s Bluesfest, something Martel will never forget. “I’ve been telling everyone that that was the best day of my life,” he says. “I mean it as powerfully as the words sound.”
Check out The Amalgamation’s Bandcamp to grab the first song off Permutations. The album is due out sometime in the next few months.