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(52 min, Progrock)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust 7:34 2. Higher 9:37 3. Weariness Rides 6:25 4. The Prisoner 10:41 5. Home 6:41 6. On & On 5:53 7. Mirror of Life 5:28 Bonus: 8. On & On Live (PC/Mac) Music: by Little Atlas. Lyrics: by Katsikas. Produced by Katsikas & Bigai. LINEUP: Steve Katsikas - keyboards; vocals Rik Bigai - bass Roy Strattman - guitars Diego Pocovi - drums With: Bill Ayasse - violin (7) Claudia Sarmiento - cuatro (5)
Prolusion. LITTLE ATLAS was founded in 1997 in Miami, Florida, and already the very next year the quartet initiated their discography with the release of "Neverwordly" (CD-R, available from CD-Baby). The group finished their second album, "Surface Serene", at the dawn of the new millennium, but the CD saw the light of day only in 2003, after they signed Progrock Records. The third Little Atlas output, "Wanderlust", was released just recently.
Analysis. Here is what the guys themselves say about "Wanderlust". "The compositions are filled with vocal-driven melodic passages, punctuated by angular instrumental diversions. Incorporating elements of modern Progressive Rock (e.g. Spock's Beard, Echolyn) and Hey-Day Art Rock (Rush, Genesis, Yes), Little Atlas achieved a thoroughly unique sound that still manages to pay homage to their influences." I agree. These remarks almost fully correspond to the actual state of affairs. While the vocal lines are melodically pronounced and are almost instantly comprehensible, the accompanying instrumental patterns are pleasantly intricate. However, the arrangements developing in separate instrumental sections would be the true calling card of Little Atlas's progressiveness. As for the band's principal benefactors, these are Rush and Spock's Beard indeed, but the direct signs of their influence can be found on the album as rarely as the artifacts of some other Giants, starting with Gentle Giant. I mean the episode with a distinctive acapella on Weariness Rides, though of course, Spock's Beard and Echolyn were the first to pick up the matter and reproduce it. Two variations on Jacob Ladder (Rush, "Permanent Waves") slip on The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust, and one on Home. Traces of the mould formed by Pink Floyd on "The Dark Side of the Moon" has been ingrained on Higher. Two synthesizer solos on The Prisoner sound like they were done by Rick Wakeman in person. While not accidental, most of the revisited themes are fleeting like the flash of lightning. You will have time to notice the infected theme, but you will hardly have time to think "aha!" The band will leave the danger zone before that, to return to the clear waters of their traditional area. I really can't understand why Little Atlas finds it necessary to cite the titans of the idiom from time to time, as they, themselves, are chock-full of ideas, and most of the album reflects their stamp-free approach to creating works in the vein of classic symphonic Art-Rock with a modern edge (manifesting itself mainly in Metal-like guitar riffs accentuating the picture, though not everywhere). There are many highlights among the tracks here, and nevertheless, the ungovernable nature of the core tracks, Weariness Rides, The Prisoner and Home, wins my heart first of all. Like in the Zone from Andrei Tarkovsky's elitist movie "The Stalker", the music here is for the most part highly unpredictable. After beautiful, quiet, instantly accessible introductory passages, everything begins moving: familiar paths become impassable, former traps disappear, new ones appear; the way becomes now easy, now confused beyond words. There is also something essentially 'magical' that will penetrate the skin of every Art-Rock lover. The most unusual episode is featured beyond the equator of Mirror of Life, where Bill Ayasse of Frogg Cafe traces dramatic passages on his violin. Finally, I'd like to note that The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust and Higher are somewhat less intricate than any of the further songs. They were justly placed in the first two positions, so the untried listener will have time to get ready for more adventurous journeys.
Conclusion. Overall, Little Atlas has come up with an interesting album with lots of creativity. Most of "Wanderlust" might be a fest for the ears of any Art-Rocker, which, in turn, guarantees a success among most of the Prog Rock society.
VM: September 8, 2005
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