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Little Atlas


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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US band LITTLE ATLAS has been around since the late 90's, and rose to some prominence with the release of three successive albums over a period of five years, the most recent of these "Hollow" from 2007. Since then news about the band have been fairly quiet, but in 2013 they returned as recording artists with their fifth studio album "Automatic Day", released through the US label 10t Records.

Little Atlas comes across as a well developed and fairly ambitious band on their fifth studio production "Automatic Day", a production that contains brooding dark atmospheres and harder edged gritty arrangements side by side with inserts, sequences and occasional full length songs of a gentler and more frail, light toned nature. Menacing themes and melancholic flurries, with occasional lapses into purebred neo progressive territories to boot. Personally I suspect that this latter defined audience will be the main one for Little Atlas, with fans of bands like IQ and Galahad an audience I suspect will find plenty to enjoy on this album.

Report this review (#1071965)
Posted Monday, November 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars the group 's keyboardist and vocalist Steve Katsikas back after a break of six years: in 2007 the third album " Hollow " confirmed the blend of art-rock and power- ballads , "Automatic Day" follows the trail without misgivings. The quartet of Miami has clear ideas and shows no hesitation : " Oort ", " Apathy " and the metallic " Illusion of control" are the episodes most resolute of the CD - to "take it or leave it" , which admits of no exceptions to the rule of melodic prog hyper arranged . The drummer Mark Whobrey contributes to the most dynamic part of the operation, the frequent switch between acoustic and electric guitar by Roy Strattman guarantees airiness and hooks radio ( also in crimson style " Twin of Ares " ) , the pieces do not exceed the long durations , sometimes steered in the direction of Porcupine Tree but tend to be static and wordy .

As similar to the three predecessors, "Automatic Day" is probably the best work of the Little Atlas : discounted , predictable and conventional , but in their field faulted!!

Report this review (#1073051)
Posted Wednesday, November 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Little Atlas - Automatic Day Rating: 9,5/10 A further effort and improvement from the already excellent previous release "Hollow", this band's really progressing! Anyway it took 6 years from Hollow, the time span was worth the wait. Only 2 reviews for this?? Let me help! This one is an absolute go-get-it! What can you find in "Automatic Day"? No really groundbreaking new music style; no highly technical passages and virtuosity in playing; no self-showing of musicians. But, indeed, you will be presented the fine work of excellent craftsmen in musical writing and construction, that produces a highly, highly enjoyable prog rock record. 10 pieces extremely varied (the first 7 are all on the range of 7-10 minutes in length, and most engaging, while the last 3 are shorter and "lighter" in feel...), from melodic to darker moments (sometimes, it reminds Steven Wilson latest work...), never in excess. Lyrics are always interesting, where the inner conscious of man is the main subject. "Oort" immediately set the space, where darkness really is. But also the light of Little Atlas' music. "Apathy" starts with the beautiful (almost a signature) delicate arpeggios and a mesmerizing melody, in my opinion where the bands really outshines. Then change starts with a tighter and slightly harder part: the song continues to evolve, with a magic finale, it sticks to your mind. "Twin of Ares" is the weirdest , or weakest one, with a central to final part that is not probably very well developed in the melody, and is difficult to retain. "Emily True" begins with a haunting sinthesizer, and stay on the gloomy mood, when hard guitars come in and excellent drumming, staying on the same bars for a few lines, than at min.3:09 hard rock riff and mellotron breaks in with a menacing tune. Even this song continue to move and doesn't stay "quiet". Another very good. "At the end of the day" sees the return of the delicate starts, with immediately catchy tune...theat is building up when gentle drumming come in. Steve Katsikas sings very passionately, with melody and sense. Another gem of the album, building greatly all the way to the end in volume and band full display. "Illusion of control" is the longest piece, and back in the dark side, with pulsating rythm at the start...and a great alternation of harsh and bright rock passages...seems to vanish at 6:12, but than gentle guitar picking is back again, and keyboards reprise with gentle uplifting melody: a fantastic music ride until the end., that seems just an illusion to control. Then, what? Then, it's "Darvocet Eyes": I dare say, this is the best of the bunch. So passionate from note 2, with electric piano, a delicate ballad that blooms on an orchid, that's almost tearjerking, when bass and piano plays together at minute 3:00...then starts more complex with guitar and drums. Super, really, with the last 2 minutes returning on the initial theme, and bursting in music and singing for the great finale, with horns-like small section that reminds of "Atom heart mother" After these 7 "long" and immersive mild contrast "We all remember truth" is a lighter, shorter, more simple but great tune...and is so exhilaratingly catchy that is quite a surprise. "Autimat Day" returns back in the territory of heavy and Little Atlas terms, before "Escape velocity" closes the work with a lighter exit tune and good electric piano playing...great way to conclude such an immersive and enchanting listening. All in all: 1/2 point less for missing originality (whatever it is...), but for all the rest, Little Atlas worked with great dedication and passion, and can be proud of the result:I'm returning to this Automatic Day almost every day, almost automatically.

Thank you, Little Atlas: One of my Top-3 albums of 2013 (Steven Wilson and Ayreon, as fellows)

Report this review (#1099743)
Posted Thursday, December 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having voraciously devoured the surprising Roy Strattman debut solo album, the cleverly titled "The Lie of the Beholder " and given it a spirited and enthusiastic review, I now have been given the opportunity to see what the issuing band Little Atlas had to offer on their most recent 2013 release "Automatic Day". I am elated to report that there are familiar strengths that both enjoy, namely stellar bass playing from Rik Bigai and Roy Strattman's effusive guitar stylings being foremost, as well as some obvious differences. Keyboardist Steve Katsikas is more front and center here, not only with his arsenal of ivories but he also handles most of the lead vocals. While very proficient, I actually prefer Strattman's voice on his solo venture, but that is just my taste. The other major difference, with all due respect to excellent Little Atlas drummer Mark Whobrey, is having the now legendary Nick D'Virgilio blow the lid off the tracks with his booming style. That is just not fair! All of this being said, the music should be taken for what it is and it has only a passing resemblance to the Strattman work. Its way more diverse and offers up a wide palette of unexpected traits that will undoubtedly catch more than a few off guard.

"Oort" has an asymmetrical acoustic/electric guitar intro, with Bigai's slippery bass slithering nicely through the sonic openings but the true revelation is Katsikas' swirling mellotron blasts that color the symphonics, a sudden e-piano cameo and a lead vocal that hints at Echolyn. This is the proper way to get into the material that will flow onward.

For a second I thought I was listening to a lost Landberk piece, "Apathy" is a highlight track that scours the horizon with winds of contrast, the vocals highly reminiscent of Patrick Helje of the Swedish legends, whist the chorus and arrangement provide a density that is hugely appealing. Fab track!

Little Atlas can be a different kettle of fish, Roy preferring a more angular approach to his rhythm guitar riffing, a trait that has a strong Robert Fripp flavoring, utterly obvious on the mathematically precise "Twin of Ares" . Now I am not a fan of this KC period (Three of a Perfect Pair), nor do I really enjoy Echolyn's style. It's all a little too Cartesian for me but I do enjoy Bigai's furrowing method, nevertheless.

Another successful track, "Emily True" is a quirky affair with a wall of brooding synths egging the passionate but slightly deranged lead vocals. The mood starts out contemplative and then just explodes into a mellotron ?hard guitar bulldozer, insistent, manic and tortured. Rick Bigai shows of some scintillating runs and the whole thing just hammers away, relentlessly.

Fabulous track number two is named "At the End of the Day", a prog-rock ballad that owns a melody that is immediate and ravishing, traits that seriously tend to seduce me rather easily, armed with a glorious lead vocal full of bravado and passion. Expertly crafted, well expressed lyrically and sophisticated in its instrumental delivery (that darn Fender Rhodes!), this can be listened to repeatedly without any ennui. Roy tortures his guitar with conviction, propelling the pleasure into a paroxysm of delight.

The lengthiest piece is "Illusion of Control", a title that evokes a theme I particularly enjoy discussing in my social life when waxing philosophy (I do own a degree, after all). A subject matter that deals with illusions of freedom and yet underlines the total dependence the human imposes on himself masochistically to govern himself according to some "power to be". Don't get me started, so let's talk music. A 10 minute + ride through dark and sunny, up and down the roller coaster of modern living, pleasure and pain, sadness and elation, misery and ecstasy. A frozen Beatles-like middle section of acoustic guitar and voice instills a sense of foreboding and dreamy disinterest that really hits the mark, swerving synth/mellotron patterns in collusion with a rambunctious bass and a breezy disdain for any form of regulation. Slowly the mood reverts to a bolder reality, a sensational piece of modern prog.

Boy, did I ever get a giggle out of "Darvocet Eyes", a drug anthem that would have pleased Waters or Wilson, directly into abject addiction. A now FDA banned drug from the 50s (how quaint is that?) that had more side effects that Sid Barrett had personalities (ouch!), a pain killer that kills the patient in order to kill the pain, talk about Illusion of Control! Needless to state the obvious, the arrangement is bathing in opiate symphonics, cottony pools of piano droplets, oozing and seeping vocals and a true sense of Pink Floydian dysfunction (this song could have been on "the Wall" album) with carousel-like dizziness and a sudden marmalade death. Total winner again.

After all this woozy head, upset stomach and bitter taste in the mouth triumvirate, how about a nice little pop song, eh? It will get us listeners to the end without any withdrawal symptoms! "We All Remember Truth" sounds almost like a long Lost Todd Rundgren tune, short, sweet and airwave friendly.

The title track is another oddball, slightly dissonant rocker, featuring a pungent bass and raw guitars, tied with a surly attitude that keeps the blood boiling and the feet tapping. Once again, Roy's acoustic picking enters the fray, with Bigai moving in with authority from the right and chiseling together a booming and explosive slow-burner that takes no prisoners. There is a slight Blue Oyster Cult tinge that is quite apparent to the studious listener.

"Escape Velocity" is a perfect send-off, another up-beat, organ fueled progressive song that barely reaches 3 minutes, a cool, funky electric piano-led enjoyable ditty that has closer ties to the Cars than anything epic, and certainly far from Floydian. Major barrage of clapping androids.

In all honesty, I enjoyed this album quite a bit, surprised by the quality of the playing and the maturity of the material. But Strattman's aggressive and perhaps more linear style on "the Lie of the Beholder" just blew me sideways, one of the finest US releases in a long time.

4 robotic times

Report this review (#1221415)
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Review Permalink

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