The American Analog Set sit astride IDM and Indie Rock; like the Postal Service and other genre-straddling acts, they are not afraid to mix synthetic drums with rockier terrain —- and I like the hybridization that results.
One of the interesting things about Promise of Love is its use of singing. Rather than using the vocals as the guiding element and forcing the rest of the instruments to support them, AmAnSet treat their vocals as another texture, often weaving them in and out of songs that are otherwise instrumental. Sometimes, as on "Continuous Hit Music", the vocals -- never mind the words -- seem to take a back seat to a pulsating treble pitch, which chugs along above a simple rhythmic pattern. The singing doesn't even enter until well past the third minute.
On other tunes, including the title track, the vocals play a more prominent role, but even these come at you in a looped fashion, repeating the same melodic phrases again and again. Don't get me wrong -- the singing is quite lovely, despite its apparent adoption of the "laptop-rock" aesthetic. Organic and digital elements morph on Promise of Love, with each taking on characteristics of the other -— a much happier pairing than man versus machine.
With AmAnSet, form versus function is always an issue. There is no doubt that the group are laying down motoric rhythms, taking advantage of programmable technology and obstinate drum patterns alike. Despite this, we never get a sense that this "dance music" is really meant to be danced to. The experience is instead analogous to what I imagine would have been the reaction to a Bach harpsichord or cello suite: the forms of the suites' movements are all different dances, but no one back in the 1700s would have gotten up and danced a gigue if some guy was playing one on the cello. Conversely, no one will accuse Promise of Love of having seriously "phat" beats. Instead, the dance form is used as the background structure upon which a more detached, less visceral piece can be wrought.
This was (for Bach's patrons), and is (for AmAnSet's audience), practical when you have a dinner party at which you would prefer that the guests don't knock over the furniture. AmAnSet gives us dance music that's perfect to sit down and listen to, opening an imaginary club in our heads. Nobody has to get sweaty there, but we are stimulated nonetheless.