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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Little Atlas

Hollow

Review by Michael Ostrich

At the inaugural year of RoSfest, Little Atlas blew crowds away at a time when some may have considered them amateurs. Back then all they had to go on was a single album to their name. Soon after, they followed up with a surprisingly mature effort entitled Wanderlust. It’s not just that Wanderlust was better than their debut, Surface Serene; it was even leaps and bounds ahead of the tall buildings that Superman was vaulting. With only a few more years under these caped crusader’s utility belts, they topple another obstacle with an eclectic collection of well-written songs. This goes to show that they hold V.I.P. status among the most elite progressive rockers of today.

While their music isn’t entirely out-there this time around, it has a highly-developed theme sandwiched between countless engrossing jams. That should be all that’s needed to keep the most demanding listeners focused. Yet, it keeps its wits about it by slipstreaming clever libretto with slippery keyboards and the snazziest of saxes.  Steve Katsiskas - their fearless leader – is responsible for those prerequisite elements. However, Roy Strattman’s guitar, Rik Bigai’s bass, and Diego Pocovi’s drums are up to snuff as well. These three introduce mental acuity of their own, and in doing so; help to create an album that’s more amazing than Wonder Women’s see-through jet. What’s most significant about this band is that they continue to grow while at the same time, their alma mater is recognizable in just a couple of bars. Their proprietary code is constantly used throughout their movements. Likewise, they expand upon their formulaic trademarks in order to compile a rock-solid release. The only drawback is that they often coax the melodies to fit around the verses. In the title track, they use that empty word to a revolting degree. Still, I can understand the need to balance instrumental manipulation against a laudable concept.  Lately, I too have been paying more attention to lyrical content so this release couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Ultimately, their glowering words give these songs depth plus a reason to revisit every single track. If music is expression; one could argue that it would be worthless to make an album without this meaningful dimension. And for that reason, they may have taken us further down the rabbit hole, which is a plausible level below Wanderlust.

Taken as a whole, this is an album that will heal. The value of having psychobabble in the arthroscopic procedure is that it leaves room for bionic augmentation. To that end, we all win because it gives Little Atlas another reason to proceed. We reap the rewards, and it necessitates no sweat on our part. Our cheap premium pays for their years of study and the depreciation of their apparatus. When they’re in the studio, the anesthesiologist makes sure we don’t sense the teensiest prick. I’m sure they’ll continue to yield future albums and when they do, I’ll be in the waiting room.  Hopefully, more is planned in their repertoire. It would be great if the coordinators of RoSfest doctored the bill and asked them back for a follow-up appointment. In the interim, they have grafted a limb to their discography that is worthy of many listens.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hollow
Take their signature riffs and put them into a song-oriented space. That’s what you get here, and that’s the spoke connecting the hub to their good news. If there were one complaint to lodge, it’s that they incessantly use the same word over and over again: Yup, it’s Hollow. The overuse is almost overbearing and had me worried about what I might be subjected to throughout the ensuing hour. This track may have been better suited in the last half of the album. Then again, that might have gone against the grain of the desired topology. Whatever the case may be, a stain that’s concentrated in one spot is always difficult to get out. As I’ve caught myself frequently humming this tarnished tune aloud, it apparent to me that it truly does has staying power.
Silence
This muffler is anything but noiseless; let alone short. Actually, it’s probably the most daunting ditty on the album. Right away, we get a heaping serving of a saxophone, and it’s quite sublime. In its tenure, we encounter crisply orderly turmoil. While it’s hushed at its origins, it builds a wall of sound over time.
Paranoiac
All signs point to Echolyn in this song. When they fall back on old habits, they enshroud them within new tricks. Specifically, Strattman’s guitar is all over the board and his cohorts do a lot. Sometimes less is more. This could very well be that rare example where a song equally qualifies for both the exception and inclusion of the rule.

Contumacious
Without forgetting who they are, they incorporate the dreamy soundscapes of Pink Floyd. It’s a simple collage of proven licks from that prominent and popular entity. In a roundabout way, it’s “Comfortably Numb.”
Preying
The majority of this track is marvelous; though I did not entirely care for the trailing bits. That aside, the introductory blurb is intriguing and weird. Either the protagonist is crazy or he is pissed. It’s a rainbow of skittles, but it’s more stubborn than a gobstopper. In other words, it’s bittersweet and if you’re not astute, you might break a tooth on the rigid shell between the savory candy and the sour core. As for what I like about it, this reggae-strewn rock and roll would cause Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet to take a bow as it could certainly be mistaken for their attractive apparel.
Orderly
This account is crucial to the story. It cures the bone of its contusion by wrapping a catchy instrumental bridge around its sternum. Climatically, it sows the stitches with the elegance of a plastic surgeon’s scrupulous hands. By this I mean the end result is more favorable than the initial prognosis.
Hiding
Speaking of patience, I adored this imperturbable piece for its simplicity. Even though it constitutes lesser efforts to rehabilitate in the studio than the other convalescents, it might be the best track. It’s also the most effective use of the operating room.
Stage
For a moment, I was convinced that this was Transatlantic’s “Suite Charlotte Pike” from its enthusiastic origins to its delightful demise. The splendor involves an uncanny solo on Strattman’s guitar as well. Along with a chronic bout of wondrous singing, Katsikas provides an elaborate and swift sequence on the keyboards. His incisions cut with the preciseness of a scalpel. Have I mentioned he is also the resident saxophonist? He’s not a large man. One has to wonder how a starving musician such as him can have so much talent in his solar plexus without bursting at the seams.

Symbiosis
While the last track has Sonus Umbra coating its guts, the start of this one is closer to David Bainbridge’s merciful wails. The rest is spruced up with Strattman’s cerebral details. With this, it’s apparent that their lead guitarist has just scaled the rankings. Unlike a punch drunk dummy who beats lower-class opponents to earn status within his class, this team is world class. To catch the listener with these counter-jabs means Strattman has studied the tapes. By the way, we get a brief nod to neo-prog; turn away or box your ears, and you just might get clocked.
Special
Remove the harmony and the piano, and what you have is California Guitar Trio without the consummate triad. That’s it in a nutshell.
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