Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ATRINA - IN PLANETARY SUGAR LP REVIEW (or, how ATRINA set the bar way too high for 2013)

ATRINA is back and ready to melt your face with a brand new, totally solid LP of amazing tunes and striking presentation!

The long form album format has seen some trying times lately. In a vast world with its ever quickening pace, people are less and less interested in an entire album, but rather more in singles and EP's. Brief collections for artists to make their short point, and then move out of the way for the next artist. Some people are embracing this evolution while others resist. This is the story of one such resistance fighter, one Kelly L'Heureux and her new masterpiece.

I can hear that delicious Fender Jazzmaster break open "a Drone", accompanied by eerie vocals provided by band leader and mastermind Kelly L'Heureux. This spacey little song is such a fantastic musical choice to open this set of recordings. Starting simply and then growing into a creepy and dissonant prog freak-out, it builds just the right amount of tension and excitement. "Janice and Joey" continues the warm Jazzmaster tone and carries us along this strange combination of Sonic Youth, Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr.. Now I know I am going to get a bunch of weird looks for this but Kelly L'Heureux is clearly a much more sophisticated songwriter than anyone in the aforementioned powerful groups. These songs are poppy and catchy while somehow being incredibly complex. Teaching these songs to other people to play on this album must have been a nightmare! On "6q26" Kelly takes a more environmental turn, creating a lush soundscape of uneasy high pitched squeals that climaxes into a softer but nonetheless eerie song. If this weren't such wonderfully challenging music to begin with I would almost think the horns on this song were out of place, but they aren't. This is exploratory on a level local artists rarely get to enjoy. It is beautiful while still maintaining its cutting edge. "Beard of Earth" is a groovy chugging instrumental, filled with awesome change ups and amazing drumming by Dave Parmelee. It's like a modern jazz song in the style of Karate or Gastr Del Sol. "Boredom in Detail" is a heartwrenchingly beautiful tune with what sounds like violins but according to the credits is bowed guitar played by Andre Roman. VERY effective use of sound and texture in this, as with all of these songs. I feel that Kelly's vocals are also especially strong for this song, perhaps due to it not being all that eerie or dissonant. It is just a jaw dropping, rich and beautiful song.

"We Without Names" is a brief but also very affecting song. Drenched in reverb and bare instrumentation, this song stands fine on its own in the middle of a collection of brilliant progressive rock. It nearly serves as an interlude to the title track "In Planetary Suger" which is perfectly combines so many different decades of musical history into a neat and tightly presented song. This song covers a bunch of ground in just under 3 minutes so get ready for repeat listens. In fact, do that for this whole album. This title track explodes at its conclusion, triumphantly and in an unbelievable blaze of sustained distortion. This explosion leads into another remarkable instrumental, "Prelude To...". This acts as an great musical bridge between "In Planetary Sugar" and "Thrush and Thrasher". "Thrush and Thrasher" is my favorite song on the album. The guitar tone and performance really makes all the difference here, alongside the whirlwind composition. This is a crazy song with tons of energy and attitude.

"Impure Germanium" sports a repetitive waltz rhythm that grows into a classy and complicated instrumental. These instrumentals definitely excel where so many instrumentals fail in their ability to keep things interesting and pleasing to the ear. 6 minute closer "January 1919" is dark and moody, more so than the other songs on this record. It has a calm, almost brooding quality. It builds and builds into a monumental climax, satisfying to its core. This is an enormously enjoyable dismount to complete this epic and sprawling album. I haven't felt this satisfied listening to a complete album in some time.

ATRINA has a brief explanation of their sound on their website, and I think it better captures their identity than I as an outsider ever could: "ATRINA makes music that is equal parts minimalist melodicism, counterpunctal cacophony, and decibel-pushing dissonance. Angular, but accessible. Complex, yet catchy. Eclectic, and electrifying—ATRINA makes ears ring, hearts pound, and toes tap." Bravo, ATRINA, Bravo.

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