The American Analog Set - Biography
The American Analog Set—commonly referred to as AmAnSet—is an indie-rock bank based out of Austin, Texas. Incorporating lengthy instrumental passages (usually featuring Farfisa organ, brushed drums and Rhodes piano) and guitar-sparse ambient soundscapes, the band established themselves as lo-fi drone-pop artists, and put out six full-length albums and four EPs since their inception in 1995. Over the course of a decade, the group developed a devoted fanbase with extensive touring, and have been compared to the likes of Stereolab, Cocteau Twins and Galaxie 500.
AmAnSet formed when guitarist Andrew Kenny and his former bandmates from Dallas-based Electric Company—keyboardist Lisa Roschmann and metal-influenced drummer Mark Smith—reunited to record some four-track recordings together, and accidently discovered their sound. They soon added bassist Lee Gillespie and began playing gigs around Austin when local indie label Emperor Jones signed them to a deal. The band’s first single with the label, “Diana Slowburner II,” would exemplify the post-rock sound of The American Analog Set for the next decade.
In 1996, the band released its debut album, The Fun of Watching Fireworks (Emperor Jones), a hypnotically dreamy record of eight quietly repetitive tracks. Kenny’s vocals were more secondary to the whole, and in fact the album was called “background” music by one critic for its reserved simplicity, while others tagged it shoegaze. Whatever the case, the gentle brushed drums, minimalist guitar work and organs on The Fun of Watching Fireworks would be virtually unchanged for the subsequent decade.
The band returned the following year with the aptly titled From Our Living Room to Yours (1997 Emperor Jones). Again featuring eight tracks, the longest being the sweeping opener “Magnificent Seventies” at just shy of nine minutes in length, the album contained dynamic atmospheric numbers and long played out rhythms, with Roschmann’s Farfisa the most prominent element. Not long after, the group issued an EP called Late One Sunday and the Following Morning as part of Darla Records’ “bliss-out” series.
After touring, the AmAnSet released its final album on Emporer Jones in the summer of 1999, The Golden Band. The adage of less is more applies to this record, as the band used barer soundscapes and, for half of the 12 tracks, they kept the songs shorter, too. With only the subtlest changes to the efforts, people began to refer to the group’s new output as “sequels” rather than new releases. Kenny’s fragile vocals are set back in the mix, behind the steady unwavering lines of trance-inducing organs and acoustic guitar strumming.
One of the founding members, Lisa Roschmann, left the group following The Golden Band, which made for a longer break between records. Upon bringing aboard Sean Ripple (guitar) and Tom Hoff (keyboards), the band returned in 2001 with Know By Heart on Tiger Style Records. In contrast to the elegantly lo-fi, one-note subtlety of the music itself, the winsome and completely incongruous opening track was called “Punk as Fuck,” pointing out the band’s sense of humor.
Craig McCaffrey replaced Tom Hoff on keys in 2003, when AmAnSet released its fifth LP, Promise of Love (Tiger Style). The album picks up a little from previous efforts, especially on “Promise of Love,” and just as easily drops into the patented shoegazy drone, as on “Come on Home Baby Julie, Come Home” and the crystalline track, “You Own Me.” The liner notes in the album might have said it all, “let The American Analog Set be the soundtrack to your life.”
In 2005 The American Analog Set released its sixth full-length album, Set Free, this time on the Toronto-based indie label, Arts & Crafts Records. The established formula of quiet, at times twinkling instrumental repetitions and Kenny’s vulnerable vocals remained intact. The end track, “Fuck This . . . I’m Leaving,” would prove to be prescient, as AmAnSet hasn’t released any more music since then.
As Kenny said in an interview in 2006, “We’ve always said, ‘If we’re not gonna be friends, we’d rather quit.’ We’d rather be friends with one another than be in a band, and originally we were just friends that had instruments.”