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Little Atlas: Wanderlust

How often does a progressive rock outfit sell an album's entire first pressing within a month, leaving them with no stock to sell at the CD's release party? The first band signed by Prog Rock Records has come through for the label again, and after panic orders for re-pressings the release party was - by all accounts - a big success.

It took repeated listens to pinpoint the characteristic that best defines this music. Then as the 10-minute "The Prisoner" ended an elegant, emotive section of guitar and synth trade-offs and moved through a tempo shift into a big wall of sound, it was like someone had taken the brakes off ... and there it was. The elusive adjective is energetic. This music is positive and upbeat and these guys are always on the go. Even in the slow sections you get the feeling they're just waiting to charge out of the blocks at full sprint, and once they're on the go, don't expect to hear the standard verse / chorus / verse structure. Each song starts with a theme which is consistently developed and expanded until it takes on a life of its own, exploring all sorts of musical soundscapes, never looking back, always driven by that exhausting energy. It's clear that these guys honed their craft on-stage. Playing live gigs week after week taught them to sweep their audiences along in a constantly changing barrage of modern progressive rock driven by brightly colored sounds and tantalizing ballads.

Little Atlas is led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Katsikas, who sings in a strong mid-range, and although you can hear he's stretching in the high registers, he remains tone-perfect. He's at his best when doing the softer or the lower-range pieces, like the opening lines of "Home", and you'll often hear him slipping in and out of falsetto with the ease of a Steve Hogarth. And that singing seems to be omnipresent on Wanderlust - there are several wonderful instrumental passages but the signature sound is the singing which permeates the majority of the album.

The music has the surface sheen of power-pop but you don't have to dig very deep to hear the complexities here. Roy Strattman's guitar work is prominent and particularly pleasing with well varied sounds, long solos and creative technique. Katsikas's keyboards are also varied and imaginative with liberal use of piano, synth and (simulated) Mellotrons. Guest artist Bill Ayasse is the violinist for new York's Frogg Cafe. Listen for his solo on "Mirror of Life". Claudia Sarmiento contributes a frenetic cuatro part. In case you didn't know, a cuatro is a traditional 4 string Venezuelan folk guitar resembling a ukelele. (Yup - we also had to ask!) This lively strummed piece comes right after a wonderful guitar / piano trade-off on "Home", which is probably the album's strongest piece. Other standouts are the 10- and 11-minute mini-epics "The Prisoner" and "Higher", which take you through section after section of head-nodding symphonic rock of the highest order.

The cover illustration and booklet are again courtesy of Xavier Cortes, the same Venezuelan artist who did the artwork for Surface Serene. The bassist and drummer are also Venezuelan - yet although you'll hear the occasional Latin flair in the percussion, Wanderlust is modern symphonic rock all the way through,.

The title track from Little Atlas's previous album Surface Serene remains a classic, but the songs on Wanderlust eclipse the rest of the prior record's tracks and show the maturity and confidence of a band that enjoys what they do and no longer have to prove a damned thing to anyone.

Little Atlas has arrived.

Track Listing:
1 The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust
2 Higher
3 Weariness Rides
4 The Prisoner
5 Home
6 On and On
7 Mirror of Life

Added: July 4th 2005
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Score:
Related Link: Little Altas's Web Site
Hits: 3073
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Little Atlas: Wanderlust
Posted by Steve Pettengill, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-07-04 07:51:30
My Score:

Floridian progressive rock band Little Atlas come up with another solid set of material on Wanderlust, the band's third release counting the non-prog Neverworldly from 1998. While Wanderlust doesn't stray too far from the formula established by Surface Serene, Steve Katsikas and Company inject a healthy dose of complexity within the song structures, resulting in a couple of excellent lengthy compositions in "Higher" and "The Prisoner". The shorter songs are just as strong with "On and On" being just one such shining moment. Little Atlas has become one tight little unit and at times their unbridled energy reminds me of Rush. Anyone who digs Spock's Beard, Echolyn or perhaps even Gentle Giant is sure to enjoy Little Atlas. We're talking vocal oriented modern prog rock that happens to kick ass.



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