Itâ€™s possible that The Unit Ama never encountered the rulebook for rock trio formation before heading to the studio to lay down this, their debut LP. Itâ€™s equally likely that they did come across these commandments, but wisely decided to ignore the bits that stipulate that a band with a basic guitar-drums-bass line-up must adhere to one of the two popular templates â€“ bluesy bluster cluttered by plentiful virtuoso fretwank, or an ensemble effort making up for paucity of manpower with energetic, hook-laden precision.
Whatever the case, the Newcastle troupe uncover some truly stirring, explosive alternatives to not just the tried and tested three-piece sound but rock in general on these ten tracks. Itâ€™s something of a refreshing relief, if not a shock, to come across something this original, even alien at a time when even the most marginal sounds are roped in to soundtrack ad campaigns and far too many mediocre bands are glad to ape whateverâ€™s hot at the moment with little regard for anything other than keeping the cash registers alight.
As with anything exploring the outer limits, itâ€™s initially a bumpy ride. Most combos would present the simple melody of opener â€˜Dead Birdsâ€™ in the sparsest, most unobtrusive of settings. The Unit Ama, however, choose to cook up a raucous, free-form rock â€˜nâ€™ roll equivalent of the cacophonous improvisation of the furthest-out skronk-jazz, whilst the feverish guitar-mangling and stuttering rhythms of the nervously twitching â€˜Governedâ€™ are more than a bit disturbing. Persevere with the platter, though, and what at first sounds like mere off-putting textbook definitions for uneasy listening soon start to make compelling sense.
The Unit Ama sound isn't entirely without precedents. Both the rumbling metronomic beat of â€˜Plastique Bertrandâ€™s fuzz bass-driven race down riff lane and guitarist-singer Stevenâ€™s zeal for skipping the pentatonic bollocks in favour of exploring his instrumentâ€™s untapped potential for startling shrieks and squeals resemble Sonic Youth, whereas the loose, sprawling crescendos of â€˜The Ostrichâ€™ bring to mind Lift To Experience â€“ another trio who didnâ€™t give two hoots about what had gone before. The instrumentals â€˜How The Mind Worksâ€™ and â€˜Glass Like Waterâ€™, meanwhile, borrow a bolt or two from the post-rock toolbox, but replace that genreâ€™s complex structures with relentless repetition that provides a wealth of hypnotic thrills.
Itâ€™s not quite a masterpiece, though. Steven is more of a ranter than an actual singer, but his pipes donâ€™t pack the necessary menace and authority to carry off the hectoring approach with the aplomb that, say, Mark E. Smith does, whilst on the tunes front, the chaotic â€˜Horses (of Northumbria)â€™ veers perilously close to the wilful unpleasantness of hardcore noise-mongering. Next to the overall quality of this astonishingly accomplished debut, however, these reservations can be easily brushed aside with dismissive title of another selection â€“ â€˜Fuck The Criticâ€™.