The American Dollar is High as Echoes CD of the Month.
The duo of John Emanuele and Richard Cupolo set sail on lysergic seas.
The American Dollar began orchestrating minor masterworks of Post-Rock and ambient music from their bedroom studio about a decade ago. That scenario might lead you to think they’d be all electronic and there is a lot of that, but John Emanuele plays drums and Richard Cupolo screams on guitar making their music more than the usually laptop looping computer mix.
On Across the Oceans, their 10th CD release, The American Dollar works in short form. The longest song is barely over four minutes. Instead of scoring for the great expanse, they create miniature symphonies, full of detail and movement, a compressed experience that is nevertheless so rich in detail that you’re left breathless by the experience. Right from the opening track, “Mosaic,” they set the tone, opening gently then exploding into Mogwai terrain. But there’s a different dynamic at work when the rhythm drops out and they send you careening into space. And that’s in the span on one 3:54 second song.
The American Dollar can be aggressively shredding one moment, serene and contemplative the next, often in the same piece. “Fall” opens with a tranquil minor-key keyboard melody and slowly accelerates to a siren guitar crescendo, before returning to earth. “Wake Up Summer” is a lysergic dream, with a Moog-like synth melody that propels the work over Emanuele’s shambolic drumming, laying down a groove while whirling freely around it. Most groups would be content to just keep that going for a while, but The American Dollar pulls out the drums, opening a new window on a minimalist theme, before the rhythms start swirling again and the spiral synth motif returns. It’s another trip into altered states, an allusion that isn’t capricious. The “Vondelpark” pair of songs are named for a park in Amsterdam and “Schipol” (sic) from an earlier album is named for the Amsterdam airport.
Although the band members have only recently crossed into their 30s, Progressive Rock lives in the DNA of The American Dollar. A mellotron sample underscores “Neighborhood” and while Cupolo is a shoegaze guitarist at heart, he’s also ingested the sustain melodies of Robert Fripp. On “Vondelpark (Noon)” you almost expect the spirit of David Bowie to step out and start crooning “Heroes.”
“Ghosts” may be the most haunting track on the album, no pun intended. Chiming guitar, stuttering synths, an insistent two-note ostinato keyboard riff, and then a free-fall section with children’s voices sighing in reverse echo, make this a horror trip worthy of John Carpenter. Cinematic references are easy to make with The American Dollar: their music has been licensed for countless, films, trailers, TV shows and commercials.
The American Dollar operates at an intersection of ambient and Post-Rock, progressive fusion and EDM. They’re what happens when musicians are influenced by 70s space and ambient music but are still listening for new sounds. Across the Oceans is a short album, but you’ll feel like you’ve been on an epic adventure, a journey to the center of your mind.