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Atropos Project: Equator

Over the past few years I've learnt to approach one man projects with caution. Often finding them to be self indulgent releases, lacking for focus, restraint and crucially, the same level of quality control that group discussion, or outside ears can often offer. Therefore it is an even greater pleasure when you stumble across a singularly realised vision that on first listen fails to suggest anything other than well realised collaborations. Equator by Atropos Project being one such, welcome, album. The other most impressive point on Equator, is that not only are the eight tracks and one short introduction one man's vision that man being John Quarles but that his guitar led instrumental offerings are well constructed songs that simply lack lyrics. The guitars often taking the place usually filled by the vocal melody in much the same way as Joe Satriani does.

Tone wise Satch is also a good stop off point for Equator, but Quarles offers up a far less melodic rock vibe, instead steering between almost gently meandering prog and piano infused jazz-lite. The first three songs all feel intrinsically linked, with gentle piano punctuations laying the groundwork from which the clean guitars dance gracefully. All three being beautifully poised, with "F.A.C." allowing Quarles's Hammond skills to come to the fore, while his guitar offers up a slightly more forceful outburst. Although the short "Inception's Promise" provides a claustrophobic intro to the slightly more exuberant hit of "Deadfall" bursting into life on an aggressive prog metal riff, before the jazzier elements alluded to earlier soothe and calm.

Again unlike most single handed "bands" Quarles also illustrates that his production skills are another of his strong points, with the album's sound being crisp and clear, while still having the enthusiasm to hit hard when the mood arises. The initially gentle, then more in your face "Spiralling" being a prime example. All of the songs on the album feel linked, with the odd reference revisited between tracks, bringing a welcome narrative to the instrumental approach. The wide and varied percussion also keeps everything tight and focused, being interesting enough to add yet another layer to an album that is busy, without ever feeling cluttered.

"A Curios Trip" completely eschews the heavier end of the Atropos Project sphere, allowing the piano to subtly dominate the path the songs wander down. Poised cymbal work and gentle guitar strums build the atmosphere, while a brooding bass line hovers in the background, before heading off into early Porcupine Tree like ambience, giving way to an almost, but not quite doom like guitar outburst. A Rush like vibe is then gently hinted at with the wonderfully titled "And....Lift", although a bluesy tinge to the guitars is a pleasant surprise, before "Suspiria" again heads down the less is more route. "Drudgery" proves to be anything but, even though it is an intentionally slow and deliberately constructed track. All of which leaves "New Leaf" to confirm Equator as one of the better guitar led instrumental albums I've heard in quite some time.

In a world where rules are made to be broken, Atropos Project has the ability and insight to sidestep many of the pot-holes I presumed it would stumble in to. Becoming an eclectic, yet cohesive mix of styles, moods and approaches in the process.

Track Listing
1. Inception's Promise
2. F.A.C.
3. Deadfall
4. Spiralling
5. A Curious Trip
6. And...Lift
7. Suspiria
8. Drudgery
9. New Leaf

Added: May 26th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Atropos Project on BandCamp
Hits: 1784
Language: english

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