Ammi was a indie rock band from the Midwest which imho perfected a blend of prog and technical math rock which was complimented by beautifully introspective and predictive vocals and lyrics. This was the peak of the self referential era well before direct duplication of rocks elements were all the rage and even promoted.

Ammi managed to be full of nuance and powerful enough to rock a room while not letting their references bleed through to the point of replication. Their albums grab me sonically, songs like Born off of Laodicea combine haunting harmonies and chilling observations. Off the same album, Blue Screen Brain offers an almost Kraut Rock vibe contrasting the consumption of life with the human desire for knowledge and the pitfalls of striking the moral balance, eventually leaving you unresolved, as life itself would even with the consumption of all knowledge were possible, the song could have been called Tree of Life but that would be a bit on the nose.

Their follow up album Imitation takes things even further. Opening with Mechanique a critical treatise on the means of production and its lack of ability to sanctify or forgive, once again referencing a Kraut rock vibe carried perfectly by Rhythm section by Marcus Anderson and Kris Kuss, with disenchanting bridges and a future circus interlude which perfectly captures the lyrics, then ending in a freeform jazz riff that never lets you settle into the content state which the culture hopes you would. That is just the beginning of Imitation, the album dives into the story of a character who is attempting to balance the dichotomy of swim or floating towards your existence. As Hunter Thompson once said, one must float down the river or swim towards a goal, this album illustrates the complexity the human condition from the perspective of the purity of youth. Sonically the album can be jarring, not unlike the life of someone bouncing between the reality they wish existed and the one they must accept actually exists. Ammi intentionally shocks you with almost nihilistic rhythms, they seem to serve nothing and serve everything perfectly, and this is reflected in the core of this album, and slowly drifts after the peak in the song Screwtape.

Following this peak is a sense of contentedness or passivity, or helplessness, it seems to depend on your perspective, enters the chat. The guitar which was previously used rhythmically even by Nate Gass their crafty lead guitarist, lets go of the strict structures spoken by Phil Vickers and almost flows into existence. The earlier driving rhythms blend into total sonic jams which fill your heart with a sense of fullness which is equally matched by the idea that behind all that noise is the emptiness of the void. Before you are allowed to drift into said void, you are snapped back to reality with a commanding performance by Phil on Static. Somehow even despite the early internet not exactly predicting what would come, Phil and team capture the difficulty of discernment in the information age that would come to dominate our lives. Rounding out Imitation is a descent into a criticism of beauty which is overwhelmingly beautiful, even in highlighting the crux of said pursuits there is a sense of beauty in working towards resolution. Nate Gass really shines here with his use of pedals to create a wall of sound which makes you feel like your floating in a sea, some waves crashing, others carrying you to the tough decisions of life. Peace eventually overwhelms as For What It’s Worth gives the listener ground to stand, some time to accept themselves and accept what will come. This peace is captured in the spacey guitar and vocal layering and minimal percussion which makes you feel as if your floating from the waters of life with no gravity towards the sky.

Closing the album out is a building crescendo of joy and sense of certainty on the song The Ascent of the Prodigal. What was an album exploring the twisted reality of what it means to be human turns into a single song accepting man’s position in nature and the minimal hope we have that our actions may carry meaning beyond the immediacy of this life.

For all Ammi is they are in my opinion a romantic band, seeking to accept reality as it exists while struggling with a romantic vision of what could be. This is reflected not only lyrically but in the masterful playing of all the talented artists who made up the group. Very rarely do such values and visions of the world match what your hearing without knowing what is being said and for this reason I will forever be a fan of this group and their catalog.

Ammi was the following amazing Musicians and Artists. (forgive me if I forget alternates)

Philip Vickers- Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Nate Gass- Lead Guitar
Andrew Wulf – Bass Guitar
Marcus Anderson- Bass Guitar
Kris Kuss- Drums

p.s. I did not include a review of The Hymnal because it was not recent on my mind at the time of writing. At a later date I will include this album as it includes Jason Alm their first drummer who offered a unique playing style worth mentioning.

Special note: Both Ammi albums were produced by Gordy Persha. Gordy is a hugely underrated producer whose mastery of engineering has gone too un-noticed in the world 2000’s era rock. Today Gordy is a touring musician with the band Los Colognes but many will remember him in the booth, and working to engineer sounds which reinforced the artists goals even when they conflicted with his own. A true legend.