Amun Ra
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Amun Ra


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"Amun Ra "Bloom""

Bloom accosted one unit of Ani Difranco's unzipped artistic mojo, an equal amount of Steely Dan's jazzability and their capability of escaping customary time thresholds by creating six-minute plus tracks that feel rapid and Sarah McLachlan's ethereality, vocal abilities and her youthful passion. Amun Ra flawlessly blended each and an evolutionary hybrid bore.

Although Difranco applied jazz, hip-hop and 'alternative' beats into her oeuvre, they were simply exercises (often monotonous). Jazz is Bloom's backbone. Emily fronts as an urban Sarah McLachlin; she has a like vocal tone, but credibly mixed it up with the support of the band's juice and her inherent city-fed soulfulness. Spicing it up (without disturbing the batter), are inserted traces of trip-hop, breakbeat, dNb, hip-hop and world beat for a risky, but rewarding texture.

Commercial radio play is unlikely, since only one cut clocks in at under five and a half minutes. However, Bloom is sophisticated pop that surpasses its grand intent because Amun Ra actually forged its own identity.

If you listened to the bland Norah Jones and decided that your senses need arousal, lustrate with Amun Ra.

Grade: A- - Spunout Central

"Amun Ra "Bloom""

If Sly and the Family Stone, Portishead and some of Real World's "Beat" artists had an all-night jam session, the results might resemble Bloom. That is to say, the tunes will stick in your brain and your money-maker will be shaking seven ways to Sunday for as long as you spin this disc.

The seventies ambiance remains vividly palpable, most obviously due to the old-school analog synth figures and the copious Fender Rhodes licks from Neil Larson. Some of Larson's riffs recall David Sancious at his funkiest (side note: If you don't know who David Sancious is, you don't know what you're missing; get thee to a record seller forthwith and grab Forest of Feelings). Indeed, the title track's fusion-laced solo break threatens to plant us in jazz-rock territory, but it actually winds up nicely integrating some instrumental ambition into a pop context.

Emily Shirley's voice soars beautifully throughout much of the album; her delivery of "Ancient Sky"'s chorus alone merits several repeated listenings (you may well swoon right along with her). Guitarist Misha Rutman, drummer Nadjim Kebir and bassist Azukizawa Hirotsugu, as well as assorted guests, all fill out the arrangements with assured playing that touches on a variety of idioms: funk, fusion, trip-hop, R&B, World Beat and straight-up pop. Tracks like "Time" will have you scratching your head at how On the Corner-era Miles Davis, Curtis Mayfield and a dose of the Divas can be evoked in the turn of a single phrase -- and it all still somehow fits.

Occasionally, you may feel that Amun Ra rides a groove a bit more than is economical. While "Spiritual Expedition" is attractive, the arrangement seems to have too many ingredients mixed in, and too many solos without significant motivation, even as a long cut for the dance floor. A bit more tightening up and less noodling might make it one of Bloom's strongest songs -- it's certainly catchy as all get-out.

However, these are minor quibbles, in the face of some major talent. If there is justice in this world, someone will sign these folks -- and soon! - Splendid 'zine

"No bones about it: This band has a vision"

No bones about it: This band has a vision
By Bob Young

Before Misha Rutman could hear American jazz, someone had to get hurt.

``The first time I heard a jazz record - it was either John Coltrane or Miles Davis - it was on an X-ray of somebody's broken leg that was rotating right in front of me,'' recalled the guitarist, who was raised in the former Soviet Union.

``To duplicate a record, you'd take an X-ray, heat it up, take the record and press it onto the X-ray,'' he said. ``The imprint of the grooves would remain on the X-ray. It's hard to get it right, but some people were really good at it.''

That was in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, during the 1980s, when Rutman was a teenager learning about homegrown rock, ``Jesus Christ Superstar'' and Western pop on his father's cassette tapes and the handful of vinyl albums that made it into his house.

Rutman eventually came to the United States to attend college. Seven years ago he moved to Somerville, which has become Ground Zero for one of the most original-sounding bands in town, Amun Ra. It appears tonight at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge.

Settling on the band's name because ``it sounded cool'' – it comes from a mythological Egyptian god - Rutman and his ensemble mates perform what they call ``kinetic world-infused trip-hop.'' Roughly translated, that means they're a rock outfit that wears influences from Africa, electronica and jam band nation on their sleeves.

On last year's debut CD, ``Bloom,'' they featured turntables, synthesizers, horns and beatboxes in addition to their basic instrumental core.

Lead singer Emily Shirley uses her voice to variously caress and float over an eclectic potpourri of often tuneful songs. Improvisation is minimal, yet there's adefinite jazz sensibility at work in both the freedom-within-structure feel of many of the pieces and the wide open spaces that drummer Ed Arnold, bassist Nate Horney and guitarist Rutman create.

Though jazz isn't front and center, Rutman admits that `` '68 to '75 Miles (Davis) is godly'' for the band members, all in their 20s. Arnold has traveled in that world a bit, sitting behind the drum kit at Scullers last year for legendary pianist Hank Jones.

If there's a role model, however, it's the local experimental collective Club d'Elf.

``I thought they were the greatest thing when I heard them,'' said Rutman. ``They have a great free approach to fusing world musics with modern drum 'n' bass explorations and jungle beats.
I wanted to have that mix with a song format.''

There's an edgy yet mature pop urgency to most of what Amun Ra does that manages to skirt genres without settling into any of them.

``We're trying to make it not too far out and have people like it, (to) be creative but not too indulgent,'' said Rutman. ``I'm hoping that one of these days something will click and everybody will think we're cool.'' - Boston Herald

"Bands On The Run: Amun Ra"

Even members of Amun Ra fumble to describe their music adequately. As they sit amid cups of steaming coffee at Trident on Newbury Street, they consider their genre. "Well, certainly one of our biggest influences is Club d'Elf," says guitarist Misha Rutman, referring to the popular Boston-based collective of experimental jazz and fusion musicians.

Then there's a pause. Two other Amun Ra members, vocalist Emily Shirley and bassist Nate Horney, look down into their cups. They think a minute. Finally, Shirley speaks up. "Our music is very dynamic, very song-oriented, but I'd say our sound is still developing."

The fine print in the liner notes of the band's debut, "Bloom," offers its own helpful tagline. In small letters at the bottom it says simply: kinetic world-infused trip-hop.

It's an apt description, but the truth is, Amun Ra is making music like few others do in this indie-rock-saturated city. Like-minded local bands - such as Nikulydin, which has shared a bill with Amun Ra on a few occasions - are often relegated to dreaded jam-band status or lumped into the world-beat category.

Strictly for comparison's sake, if you like Morcheeba, Portishead, and to a tiny degree Beth Orton, you're likely to appreciate Amun Ra. One aspect that's different, however, is Shirley's vocals, which aren't as ambient as they are meaty, as if derived from guttural soul singing. It's a tricky line to walk in trip-hop, where vocals are often secondary and as willowy as a whisper.

Amun Ra takes a kitchen-sink approach to its music - liberal helpings of fluid jazz and electronica meld with techno drum 'n' bass and complex North African rhythms. Somehow, what could turn out scattered and unfocused becomes music that is forever in motion. Songs don't unfold; they glide along. Some prompt you to dance a little, while others are perfect soundtracks for chilling out. The high-quality musicianship, though, always begs to be heard. "Aesthetically, you want to make music that's artful, but you also want to make an artistic statement with your music," says Rutman.

Brian Knoth, who coproduced, mixed, and engineered Amun Ra's album, says he was struck by the band's wide influences. "One of the things that attracted me initially was the fact that they are drawing from so many styles and different musical cultures," says Knoth, who is also a guitarist in Nikulydin. "People have responded positively to this music partly because [Amun Ra] is making unique music that transcends external influences and says something truthful."

"Bloom" is an impressive debut, bolstered by songs such as "Time," with its staggered drum breaks and Shirley wondering, "Will you quench my thirst?/ Will we love so hard it hurts?/ Or like the end of the world where the sky meets the earth/ Will it all disperse?" Such literate musings mark many of the tracks, all of which Shirley wrote.

The band's name, a reference to a god from Egyptian mythology, lends itself to the group's worldly, groove-geared sound. Amun Ra's diverse background also emboldens its hodgepodge of styles: Rutman is from Russia, while the other members are from the East Coast and the Midwest.

Amun Ra is a young band, having started in summer of last year and whose lineup has already lost two original members. Other members include Neil Larson on synthesizers and Edmund Arnold on drums. Even in a short period, though, the band has snared a following. The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge has been an early supporter, with recent sold-out gigs there and more to come. Songs from "Bloom" have also been played on local college radio and even some stations in New York and across New England. The band plays a short set at the Kirkland Cafe in Somerville on Jan. 24. Its next major performance is at Bill's Bar in Boston on Feb. 27.

"It's easy to get your music out there with gigs or getting your album in stores; the hard thing is getting people to know about it," says Shirley. "We want people to know about our music."

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company. - Boston Globe

"Amun Ra: Live @ The Lizard Lounge"

With genres continuing to evolve at a rapid pace, and as we progressively move into new depths with both technology and innovation, it's become apparent that many new bands are still merely recycling, rather than reinventing. The rebirth of repetitive funk beats, combined with the relative ease with which novice musicians can lock in on trance grooves has spawned an entire new spectrum of bands that can lay it down, but can't offer much else. It has gotten way past the point of all sounding the same.

Those listeners looking for a new artist with the capability of rewriting the standards of what you've come to expect, you've found it. Amun Ra are not only separating themselves from the atypical, they are establishing an entire new level for newcomers to attain.

The intimacy of the Lizard Lounge was the perfect backdrop for Amun Ra^Òs soulful and honest collage of style and emotion. Settling into the historic room, the band locked into a dark and dripping trip-hop beat, slowly easing in the accompaniment of guest DJ Axel Foley. Smooth acid jazz and ambient interlays flowed evenly throughout the early part of the set, led by the melodic tones of guitarist Misha Rutman. Unlike many bands that rely on the Moog and synthesizers to provide the primary trance element, Amun Ra's sound allows Rutman to create his own definitive space. On songs such as "Time", the band touches on early-era Jamiroquai rhythms, and he leads the band in and out of the jam, riding it along at will.

A collective power, the group gains strength from all angles, though it was the soft and sultry vocals of Emily Fisher that overwhelmed the audience. Her voice is the essential ingredient that could quickly rise Amun Ra from bar band to established club player in a short time. A confident stage presence and vibrant vocal range reminiscent of PJ Harvey, Fisher is a welcomed breath of fresh air to a scene dominated with radster guys in retro-Ts. She can slide in and own a lofty jazz ballad, and then equally dominate a stomping backbeat. On "All Eye C," Fisher delivered a soothing, late night whisper, and on the set closer of Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," she showcased her abilities on all sides, as the song shifts from folk to marching beat to soul and back again.

Composed of accomplished musicians with talented songwriting skills, we can only expect great things from the band in the studio as well. Their first full length is due out this Spring. - Glide Magazine


Bloom - 2003 (self-released)
A Thousand Ticking Clocks - 2005 (self-released)



AMUN RA is a Boston-based rock band blending soulful pop songwriting with breakbeats and electronica. The music mixes lush melodies, swarthy jazz breakdowns, and frenetic drum'n'bass beats to create a passionate melange of crowd moving electro-rock. The work follows the modern-day musical tradition that has been established by the likes of Stereolab, U2, The New Deal, Portishead and Boston underground heroes, Club d'Elf.

AMUN RA was founded in late-2002, and consists of veteran drummer Ed Arnold, bassist Nate Horney, Neil Larson on synthesizers, and vocalist Emily Shirley whose electrifying presence and heart-stopping voice have left audiences reeling from Boston to NYC to Burlington, VT. AMUN RA has built an enthusiastic following among Northeast music fans that come back again and again for their energetic performances.

In 2003 the band had released their debut CD aptly titled “Bloom.” The CD earned praise from both critics and music fans, and after repetitive stops across New England and a highly successful radio push the initial pressing has sold out. The album is currently spinning on a number of college and AAA radio stations such as, WFNX, WERS, WMBR, and WMFO. Their sophomore effort, recorded and co-produced by Brian Knoth at Theta State Studios, and released in the Fall of ‘05. The new album, titled “A Thousand Ticking Clocks”, showcases the more driving and dance-oriented side of AMUN RA. Currently getting spins on Boston Clear Channel’s WBCN, the singles bend and sing and never let up on the beat.

In 2004 the Boston Globe named AMUN RA one of four up-and-coming bands to see live. AMUN RA keeps a steady gigging schedule in the Northeast, and continues to win new fans in the Boston area venues such as the Lizard Lounge, TT the Bear’s, and The Middle East, in New York City's Lion's Den, in Burlington, Vermont’s Club Metronome, as well as many other venues across New England.